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tv   History Bookshelf Cara Robertson The Trial of Lizzie Borden  CSPAN  April 8, 2021 4:15pm-5:04pm EDT

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attorney and historian talmadge boston in this program hosted by baylor university law school. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern. and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> american history tv on c-span3 every weekend, documenting america's story. funding for american history tv comes from these companies who support c-span3 as a public service. >> next on history bookshelf, legal scholar carla robertson examines the murder trial of lizzie borden in 1893. the case received international attention as lizzie borden was tried for the murder of her father and stepmother in falls river, massachusetts. politics and prose bookstore hosted this event.
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>> hello, good afternoon. welcome to politics and prose. thank you so much for coming out on this really beautiful day. we are very pleased to have carla robertson here to talk about her new book "the trial of lizzie borden." before we get started, a little house keeping. first let's all take a moment to silence our cell phones. i'll do that, too. we are recording. c-span is here with us today. so we just don't want any extra noise interruptions. also after carla speaks, there will be time for a q & a. if you have questions you'd like to ask her, please use this microphone here so we can pick it up on our a/v stuff, that
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would be great. many of you know that we have a lot going on here at politics and prose including at our book stores at the wharf and union market. to stay on top of that, check out our events calendar and our social media. also, if you are a fan of this book, you may enjoy our true crime book group which meets the -- every third thursday of the month at 7:00 in the coffee house. my name is jenny. i'm a book seller here, and i'm really glad to introduce carla robertson. carla is a lawyer. she was educated at harvard, oxford, and stanford law school. formerly a supreme court law clerk, she served as a legal adviser to the international criminal tribunal for the former yugoslavia at the haig, and was a visiting scholar at stanford law school. she first started researching the lizzie borden story while at harvard and published her first paper on the trial in 1997. the trial of lizzie borden is robertson's first book. in it she addresses one of the most infamous murders in history. the murders of andrew and abby
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board en, and the subsequent trial of their daughter lizzie why so sensationalized they remain a ubiquitous part of american law even now over 120 years later. in the trial of lizzie borden, she strips away the salacious and mythology details and uses court transcripts and lizzie's own letters and provides information on the case. she explains how socialized guilded age in the treatment and set the stage for the legend borden has become. and now here's carla robertson. >> thank you. [ applause ] >> i'm not expecting a call. this is just to make sure that i don't speak too long. thank you so much for coming, particularly on such a beautiful day. also i think that when you've been working on a subject as long as i have, there's always a fear that you know you're involved in some sort of
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intellectual stockholm syndrome. so it is nice to knee that once the book is actually out there are people who might want to hear a little more about it. what i thought i would do is tell you a little bit about what drew me into the case to give you a sense of what my approach is. and then, you know, although it is a very familiar case to many people, i'll give you a little bit of background about the story so that we're kind of all on the same page for the question and answer period, and i look forward to knowing what it is that grabs you about the case. i started out by thinking that something like this, a great public trial would be a good way to get a window into the guilded age, which was a time of great change and tension in american society. also one that seems uncannily like our own in some regards at
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this point. you know, some of that is because obviously in a trial, the lawyers need to explain in a way that is comprehensible to people who are specifically supposed to be representative of the community at large, you know, the jury, how something might have happened. and so it gives one i think good insight into the stories, you know, that a culture wants and expects to hear. and it also -- i found while doing the research it made me question also the sharp distinction that many people from a law background make between what the legal professionals do and what, for example, the lawyers might argue to the jury. that it seemed to me that the same cultural assumptions were at play when the lawyers and the judges were discussing the evidence rulings as when the
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lawyers were making their argument specifically to the jury. so that's just something that, you know, i had in the back of my mind. and then for this particular story, you know, i must say i was attracted to the mystery. that it's, technically speaking, it's a who done it. even if you're pretty sure who did it, it's certainly a why done it. but in that mystery is almost a locked-room story, a locked-room mystery out of the golden age. there's a small space, there are a limited number of suspects. it's very difficult as a practical matter to understand how anyone could have done it at all, and it's certainly difficult to imagine how anyone besides the person who was ultimately put on trial for it could have done it. and so it has some of the, if you will, the pleasures of that
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kind of puzzling now for those of us who like mysteries. but it also has a mythic quality. in the book i've said that it's a locked-room mystery, but as written by sophaclies. it's a story of an extremely happy family. and the tensions that erupt that many people see as symbolic of wider social questions or familial relations. so that was basically my approach, and i probably should give you a non-spoiler alert, which is that i don't actually solve the mystery in the course of the story. that i thought it was important to lay out the story from the beginning to the verdict to the strange cultural after life of the case without officially
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taking a position, so that, so that it would be as evenhanded as possible and allow the readers to puzzle it out for themselves. there's also something i think that always feels a little bit of like a cheat when you're reading a nonfiction narrative and there's a solution to the central mystery that it's hard not to think that -- and i think this has been the case with prior works on the borden mystery. you do have a sense that people are really emphasizing and de-emphasizing parts of the story. and, again, that was something i didn't want to do. so, anyway, all of that is the background. and just to begin with what we know for certain, and that is on august 4th, 1892, andrew and abby borden, an elderly couple, were found hacked to death, in the words of their local paper,
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in their fall river, massachusetts, home. it seemed initially like the work of a madman. mrs. borden had been felled by 19 blows in the upstairs guest room, and then about an hour and a half later, after he had returned from business downtown, mr. borden was himself killed by ten blows while he was having a nap on the sitting room sofa. so, it was a pretty horrifying scene regardless of anything else. i mean, that that alone was enough to generate -- generate front-page news. but the police soon discovered some anomalies. you know, they expected, as i said, that this was the work of a madman, and that some crazed stranger would be found
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wandering the streets with an axe or hatchet. but they noted two central facts. the first was, as i had mentioned in describing the murders, the interval between the murders seemed odd, that it was strange that someone from the outside would have come in, killed mrs. borden, waited at least an hour and a half to kill mr. borden, and then departed. it was a small house, quite narrow, with no central halls because it had been a converted two-family tenement house. there were no other places to hide. if someone from the outside had come in, that person would have had to elude the others. and then the second even more important point was that the house seemed to have been locked. the front door was certainly locked, and the back door was certainly locked. that left a side door that was kept closed and latched by custom of the house and was often in the sight of the
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family's housekeeper, but it wasn't conclusively shown that it was locked throughout. but that still left very little room for an outside perpetrator to have come in. so the police turned their attention to the people known to be in the house at the time. there were three others who woke up in the house that morning who survived the carnage. the first was a man named john morris. he was andrew borden's brother-in-law. he had been the brother of andrew's first wife, abby who was killed upstairs as i had mentioned was his second wife, and he had arrived the day before to pay a visit on the bordens. and that seemed suspicious to many people. and he was also an attractive suspect because he was an outsider. he was from the west. he was a horse trader. people said he consorted with gypsy traders who were down in
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westport. and there were just things about him that weren't so appealing. so he seemed plausible, but he had an alibi that was straight out of a detective novel. shortly after breakfast he had gone to visit other relatives in a different part of town, and he had been riding on the horse car with six priests. [ laughter ] and while, you know, if this were an agatha christie he would have done it. that left two women in the house at the time of the murders. the first bridget sullivan, the family's irish catholic housekeeper, who incidentally, was called maggie by everyone except mrs. borden. the reason she was called maggie was maggie was the name of their last housekeeper and they just couldn't be bothered to learn a new name. so, anyway, mrs. borden did
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maggie, a.k.a. bridget sullivan, another favor, which was to ask her to wash windows that morning inside and outside. so that meant that bridget sullivan happened to be outside washing windows, in sight of other people at the time that mrs. borden was killed. that seemed to rule her out of that possible murder, and it was thought that whoever killed mrs. borden had killed mr. borden as well at the time that mr. borden was killed, she was upstairs in her attic room napping. the family had suffered from some food poisoning the day before and she he was feeling unwell and possibly was getting a head start on her, on her usual thursday half day. so that left one person, and that was andrew borden's younger daughter lizzie, who was 32 years old, unmarried, still living at home. she had an older sister emma two
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years older but she had been away visiting friends for two weeks. so she was definitely in the clear. and there were a number of suspicious things about lizzie. the first was that she hadn't actually looked for her stepmother when she discovered her father's body at around 11:00. she said that her stepmother had received a note and had gone out. no note was ever found and investigation failed to disclose any potential sender of the note. it was also the case that she seemed to give shifting accounts of where she was. she said that she was downstairs ironing handkerchieves at the time that mrs. borden died, a task that was significantly left undone. and that she was outside in the barn looking variously for a sinker for a fishing line or a piece of tin to fix a screen, and also eating pears in the
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upper part of the barn at the time that her father was murdered. all of this probably wouldn't have been enough to place her under arrest, but it was also discovered that she had tried to buy poison the day before the murders. she had gone to the local drugstore, or she was identified as a woman who had gone to the local drugstore to be totally precise, and asked for prosec acid to clean the cape. they said they only sold it on doctor's prescriptions. she said she had done so on various occasions. but no one believed that she had actually -- that woman had actually managed to purchase the prosec acid and the bordens themselves were not poisoned. it went a long way toward explaining why a woman might turn to a readily available
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household implement to execute a murderous plan that she had already formed. poison was considered to be a woman's weapon, and so that, that held a lot of sway. and it also was discovered that the family seemed implaquably divided and lizzie didn't like her stepmother. all of these things culminated in lizzie borden's arrest and that catapulted in what would have been a passing horror into something much darker and a case of international significance. so at this point i'm just going to read you the description of the newspaper coverage of the opening of the trial. the trial of lizzie borden, according to the providence
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journal, would be one of the greatest murder trials in the world's history. the new york world more modestly declared it the trial of the most extraordinary criminal case in the history of new england. the boston globe proclaimed, it will be impossible to exaggerate the interest felt and manifested by intelligent readers throughout the country in the outcome of this trial of a comparatively young woman for the murder of her father and stepmother. the globe estimated that, among its own readership, there are at this moment 100,000 persons devoting what they are pleased to call their minds in a hopeless analysis of this tremendous case. to satisfy this demand, so many correspondence and reporters converged on new bedford that the new bedford evening standard questioned whether a more distinguished collection of newspaper writers were ever detailed to cover a murder trial. some of those included, you
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know, many of the what you might call the bold-faced names of the day. journalists who were so famous that they themselves wrote memoirs and were talked of in the same way as significant literary figures. one was a man named joe howard, jr., who was -- who covered the case for the boston globe. he was at the time the highest-paid correspondent in america. he traveled, it was said, with a blonde stenographer, and he devoted a great deal of attention to bringing his readers into the courtroom so that, so that people could follow along in the proceedings, not what actually happened while the court was in session, but also the sense of urgency that so many felt in their attempts to get into the courthouse. the fact that so many women were in the audience. the numbers of women steadily
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increased throughout the trial so that by the end, more than half were women. some even put the number higher. and he would scan the crowd for, you know, pretty faces as he was wont to do. and other celebrities of the day would receive mention. he turned minor court officials into characters so that the readers would have the, you know, the pleasure of reading about their -- the familiar, the familiar people and the pomposity of the sheriff or the eloquence of the lawyer. he even reported on the activities of what he referred to as the cow of the day who was -- or which was a cow that just happened to be across the street and whose mooing was audible at different moments and seemed to provide a commentary. the globe said that the joe
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howard's cow will go down in history on the same level as mrs. o'leary's cow, the cow that started the chicago -- the chicago fire. and in terms of what they were looking at, the person, of course, who was of most interest to all of the correspondents was lizzie borden herself. she presented a conundrum for people. she had a quite extraordinary self-possession, and that was read in opposing ways so that for those who were inclined to think that she was guilty, they saw her as one newspaper wrote, as the sphinx of coolness, someone with the detachment that suggested the kind of masculine nerve that was consistent with pre-meditated violence, and not consistent with, you know, late
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19th century notions of proper femininity. for those who were inclined to be sympathetic turned out to be most of the reporters from out of town especially, like joe howard. they saw this as consistent with the kind of in born dignity, a mark of ladyhood, as they would put it, that this was someone who ticked all the boxes of respectable femininity. she had been active in her -- she had been active in her local church and she was engaged in all the culturally sanctioned activities that one might expect of an unmarried woman in her day. and so for those reporters, her behavior was sort of exactly what you would expect. that she acquitted herself admirably, and that she was just bearing up in an impossible situation. and it was also noted that,
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that -- and this gives you some idea of the theater that's involved in the trial. there is a moment where the prosecution displays a bag that happens to hold the skulls of the bordens. and lizzie borden promptly fainted then. and earning the approval of all journalists, even the pretty hostile irish catholic paper from fall river. so, there is the sense that her own behavior, her own demeanor during the trial was as central to the question of her guilt or innocence as the arguments that are actually being made by the lawyers. and i should say that the book is mostly about the trial, so i just will very briefly give you a sense that for the prosecution as was indicated by my summary
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of the murders, the trial is a case of exclusive opportunity, you know, mixed with a powerful motive so that basically no one else could have done it, therefore lizzie borden did it. and we know that she hated her stepmother. they are largely silent on the question of why she killed her father. that seems to be something that the prosecutors can't quite grapple with themselves, that they -- that all the focus about the enmity in the household is about lizzie and her stepmother and not her father. the only thing the prosecution can really argue is lizzie borden meant to kill her stepmother and then didn't get out in time to establish her own alibi so that she was transformed, and that's the word they use. transformed sort of like jeckyll and hyde into a murderess who
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then kills her father, too. as you can imagine, the defense makes a lot of that. you know, they ridicule the prosecution for not being able to supply what they considered to be a reasonable motive for her father's murder. they also point to many suspicious characters seen in the vicinity. my personal favorite is dr. handy's wild-eyed young man who is spotted staring at various people and staring into the ground. and just essentially the argument is, look, it's not your business to unravel the mystery, so that if you had any kind of doubt at all, then you can't send this woman to the gallows. the trial lasts over two weeks, which is an unusually
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long trial for that period, but it's probably worth noting that the jury was unanimous on the first ballot. they found that they were in total agreement and didn't really need to discuss the evidence. however, they waited in the jury room for about an hour and a half so it wrote seem like they had been properly deliberative. and then when they came out to deliver the -- their verdict, the foreman was so excited that he couldn't wait for the clerk to finish the question and he blurted out, "not guilty." and at that point there's pandemonium in the courthouse and cheers, many congratulations to lizzie borden and her supporters. and the assumption is lizzie borden will then return to fall river and live down her notoriety. but her supporters cooled in their enthusiasm pretty quickly.
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people began to wonder if she didn't do it, then who did. she found that the pews around her own seat at her local church were empty when she tried to return, and the church had formed the bedrock of her support during the trial. and that pretty much set the tone for her, her treatment in the polite circles of society. her sister, who i mentioned was ten years older and was a bit of a mother figure to her, lived with her. they had moved from the more cramped house to what you might call a mcmansion in the elite residential district of fall river. and they lived there for 12 years together with lizzie borden increasingly isolated until they had a mysterious fight, and the rift persisted until the sisters died within a month of each other. so lizzie borden lived out her
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last days alone, shunned by the people she most wished to know. it's always struck me that that also shows the nerve that is remarked upon at trial, and possibly also the provincialism that she had a sense that her universe was fall river, and that's where she was going to live. and i think it's that piece of the story, too, that contributes to the legend because very little about her later life is known for sure, and so it enhances the enigma that she presented at trial. and i just want to be sensitive to the question period, so i
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think i'll leave it there and then see where you all want to go with this. but thank you very much for your attention. [ applause ] i should say if there are no questions, i'm going to talk some more. >> i'm sorry? >> i'm kidding. >> is this on? these days, of course, we'd expect the marisa hargitay with the dna stuff and find everything. was there evidence what happened to the evidence? do you think there was any sort of travesty of justice, travesty of evidence that went on? >> well, there was -- on the one hand, you know, it was state of the art c.s.i. fall river. the police came in and they picked up pieces of carpeting, they picked up wood moulding. the stomachs were sent to harvard. in some ways they did what they
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could. this is before fingerprint evidence, i mean, long before dna, but even before fingerprint is used as identification, let alone, you know, let alone for investigative purposes. and then on the other hand, you could say that they really botched things because there was nothing like the preservation of the crime scene that you would expect. one of the striking things about reading this reading -- the accounts, how many people are wandering through the crime scene on the day of the murders. and we know that based on the testimony that mrs. borden was moved. so there are things that, you know, insofar as they hinge on the exact placement of the body or the way that the bodies fell, we can't really be certain about them. so i think it's kind of a mixed, a mixed bag. but one thing i would say is that based on how quickly the jury came to its decision, i actually don't think more evidence would have made that much difference.
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that this was a story about what people believed someone like lizzie borden might be capable of as opposed to just a question of whether or not she did it. that i think it wasn't what you might call reasonable doubt as much as a kind of unreasoning certainty or anxiety at least to believe that that wasn't possible. yes. >> thank you for educating me. i've been hearing about the lizzie borden case, that is, hearing of the existence of the thing for, you know, all my life, but never really known any detail about the murder or the case. but it does strike me that it would make possibly good material for a film. and i don't even know whether there have been films, good or
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bad films made on the case up to this point in time, but the real question i have is do you think it would make a good film? and do you think especially one based on any new material that you have in this book? another related question would be, would it be possible, in your opinion, to make a good film with this without changing the story in any, in any significant way, certainly without changing the facts or, i don't know, adding in a romantic interest or whatever? >> yeah -- i'm sorry. >> just a comment on the cinema potential. >> it is a story that's been re-told over and over again in many genres, including film or tv movie and a couple of films.
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and plays, a ballet, an opera. i just recently saw a rock musical. which was good, by the way, i recommend it. all of them resort to heavy fictionalizing, particularly on the point that you raise, is that people seem to find the story is kind of incomplete without a romance. and that the, you know, festering tensions in the household -- plus a money motive don't seem to provide an adequate purpose. the thwarted romance. the most recent movie puts lizzie and bridget in a relationship. it has the practical -- it afford some practical help which is it's easier if they were in it together from the point of view of the clean-up. but there's no particular historical basis for that. >> right.
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>> so, i do think that the trials can be inherently dramatic. of course, i'm biased because that's what my book is about, but i do think that that would provide a way to capture the drama, their real highs and lows in the stories. as i mention with the skulls, all these moments of great theater. you know, there is still the question of -- which i think we struggle with in many other contexts, too, which is trying to understand human behavior, you know. how is it that someone who led basically a normal life for 32 years, might have committed two horrible murders in one day, and then went on to live a basically normal life afterwards. >> right. >> so maybe in a contemporary sense, the lack of a romance might be a good thing to do in a film. in other words, it would give movie reviewers something to say about this film, how it differs.
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>> right. >> and that films shouldn't need a romance. >> thank you. hi. >> hi. i was wondering what precedent, if any, you think this case set for law enforcement officials and court officials handling similar cases in the near future. >> yeah, i struggled with this one because i think that it doesn't, it doesn't do much in the doctrinal sense because, because it was so out of the ordinary, you know. so that -- it's hard to imagine the rulings, for example, on evidence in the case, two significant rulings that really favored the defense where the exclusion of the attempt by poison -- in other words, the jury never heard of her attempt to buy poison, and the jury never got to hear her inquest testimony, which was lizzie
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borden's only testimony under oath. both of those rulings were criticized as being quite inconsistent with contemporary evidence law. even if you could sort of argue them on both sides, argue them on both sides. and it seems pretty clear that the fact that lizzie borden was not just a woman but a particular kind of woman had an effect on how the black letter law was applied to the case. so i don't think it offered much precedent, but i think that is a really interesting question. thank you. hi. >> hi. really enjoyed your talk. >> thank you. >> and i'm enjoying the book. i have two questions. >> uh-huh. >> one is kind of technical and the other is more overarching. and the first one, the kind of overarching question, you touched on this a bit. but i'm curious as to what your
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take is on why we're still fascinated with this case. like what is it that keeps it, you know, current in our interest. and then the second question is if lizzie borden did do the murders, if we assume that just forsake of argument, how do you think that she was found never to have any blood on her? that seems like a really amazing little detail that if she committed it, how could she have not had a trace of the blood. >> i will take the second one first, if i may. and so that's the question of why no blood. obviously that is a huge part of the defense case. and the short answer is she burned a dress sunday after the murders. it was a dress that had been sustained with paint. and she was able to demonstrate that via testimony from a dressmaker and also the painter.
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but it is also true that the police had searched the house and looked for all of her dresses and had not found one that had been sustained with paint. so the prosecution clearly thought that was the explanation. it is also true that the medical experts all testified that whoever had committed the crimes would have been spat erred at least in some part of their body. it depends which particular murder we're talking b. i'm not 100% sure that the burnt dress explains all of that given the practical problems of the cleanup. but that's pretty much what the prosecution's theory was. and as to, you know, why we are still fascinated, i think it's -- you know, it's a truly horrible case that ended with an acquittal. so that leaves it much more open-ended than a case that ended with a conviction, which you could argue about. but it's hard to know what an a quilts really means.
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did they really think she didn't do it, maybe she did it but they wanted her to get away with it, maybe there wasn't quite enough evidence. and i think it is this mythic quality to the story that it's hard to -- and hard to understand how somebody who seemed so normal transformed into such a violent murderess without the benefit of the tonic that turned jeckyll into hyde. thank you. >> i once read a book about another famous massachusetts trial, benzetti. it was interesting to read because it pointed out some of the problems in massachusetts justice. the prosecutor failed in his
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duties and the defense failed in his duties, and the judge failed in his duties. and so in the end he concluded that there was no conclusion you could come to which made it an interesting book to read. what's your judgment about the quality of justice in massachusetts at the time of this trial? >> well, i thought the lawyers were excellent on both sides. and i should -- you know, one of the many things i left out for the short talk is that the prosecution was led by a amman named jose anolton. his junior in the case was a man named william moody, who is a friend of theodore roosevelt and ends up on the supreme court, in addition to having an excellent record as a trial lawyer. and on the defense side, lizzie borden put her considerable inheritance to good use pretty quickly in hiring expensive legal talent from boston.
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one a trial lawyer named melvin adams, who was also a bit of a dandy. used to have a bit of a curl right there before the trial. and most significantly the former governor of massachusetts, a man named george robinson who was very folksy. i could almost hear a southern accent, though he was from springfield. so there's no way he had one. but he had that air of just stopping by to chat with the jury. and being extremely reasonable. so that's not really an answer to the quality of justice. but i think she was -- that the lawyering was good on both sides. >> my interest in this case goes back to 7th grade. but peaked there. and i hadn't thought about it since. i got interested in it because
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my cousin wrote a book that you probably know about the case. it was a best seller back in the early '60s. and ed took a different tack. he was a journalist, in addition to a crime writer. and he basically decided she's innocent and picked the guilty one. now, you know who he picked as the guilty one. >> yes. >> and you don't have to solve the case now. but do you think he probably was right? >> no. i think he was a terrific writer. and it's a great book. so i recommend it highly as a read. but can i spoil the book? i don't want to ruin your cousin's posthumous sales. >> no. i don't think he's at risk at that at all. >> he fingers the servant, bridgett sullivan. if it's not lizzie borden it makes sense that it would be
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bridgett sullivan. he brings to bear the prejudices that would be familiar in late 19th century readers so that -- although his book is much later. but lizzie borden's lawyer at one point wonders out loud who in the natural course of things should be the party suspected? the stranger, he might as well have said the immigrant, or lizzie borden. his book also has a -- yeah. i would say it incorporates some of those biases in that the only explanation for why she would have done it is that she just didn't really want to wash the windows on that day and it just pushed her over the edge. >> so, without solving this case, tell us who you think probably, but not certainly, had done it. >> you can imagine -- >> we're not convicting them, but i don't want you to
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exonerate them either. >> sure. this is the question i get the most. i'd have to say that it's hard to imagine how anyone else besides lizzie borden could have done it. it is also true that after looking through everything, i am struck by how difficult it would have been for her to do it too. i think i was more smug when i first started but this being a case about the biases of a particular era leading to some blindnesses on the part of the men who were conducting the trial. i do think it's harder than that. but, you know, i do come back to the it's hard to see how it could have been anyone else. and i'm content to let it be unsolved. >> thank you. >> thank you. >> i only read the first chapter. buff i read a lot of reviews. and a number of them seem to be bringing up the adjoining door, connecting the rooms, and the
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ring that she wore. it seemed to be creating a relationship between the father and daughter. >> yeah. so this is -- i struggle with -- in some talks, i have talked about that. in others, i haven't. there are many odd things about the family. and one that seems to particularly grab people's attention is the way in which the house has no fewg -- feng shui. there's no central hall. what that means for the upstairs, is the bedrooms open onto each other. and at the time of the property dispute, to which i had alluded, it either raised the tension in the borden household or created
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some new grievance, borden's lock and move furniture to separate lizzie's bedroom from the parents' bedroom so that -- now, for example, if you were going to the house, which is a b&b, you can walk from the front of the second floor to the back. but then you would not have been able to because the doors that separated the daughter's suite of rooms from the parents's suite of rooms was locked and furniture was moved in front of it. and i think this gives us an example, too, of the way in which, you know, we bring our own biases and preoccupations to this kind of case. it's not a coincidence that in the '90s, people looked at the facts of the case and thought this is an incest story, a story about sexual abuse and someone who struck back against a father who victimized her and the
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stepmother who was complicit in the victimization. and it suddenly seems very obvious. there are little details like lizzie borden had given her father a ring. and he wore it on his finger always. and he's buried with it. though he wore no ring to commemorate his wedding to his second wife. but it overlooks that sort of analysis i think just shows us more about our own concerns in a particular time. because many of the things that are shown to be signs of that kind of relationship would have been equally true of other unmarried women in this era. the fact that they were two sisters, unmarried, living at home with a father and stepmother wasn't that unusual. a close relationship with the father where he controlled most of the money would have been
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also not unusual. but it also gets at our desire to have an explanation both for the identity of the killer and the ferocity of the attack. and it's much more trouble to go think there might not be something like that. at its base. thank you. [ applause ]. >> week nights this month, we're featuring american history tv programs as a preview of what's available every weekend on c-span3. tonight we look at cabinet secretaries. james baker served as secretary of state for president george h.w. bush. and as ronald reagan's white house chief of staff and treasury secretary. he's interviewed about leadership and his career by
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attorney and historian tommage boston hosted by baylor university law school. watch tonight beginning at 8:00 p.m. eastern and enjoy american history tv every weekend on c-span3. >> american history tv on c-span3 every weekend documenting america's story, funding for american history tv comes from these companies who support c-span3 as a public service. ocme of maryland located >> we are presently in the office of the chief medical examiner for the state of maryland located in baltimore, a state-wide agency. and these are the natural studies of unexplained death which were made in the 1940s between 1943 and 1948,

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