Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lizzie Borden Exonerated

Some interesting 19th century history

I like Lizzie Borden.

She was a woman of unimaginable fortitude, intellect, and goodness. My perception of her is based both on study of her life before she was accused and acquitted of the murder of her father and stepmother, during the trial, and thereafter.

With the common person, generally void of independent thought and rationality, even a children’s rhyme carries weight. Say her name, and most I’ve spoken to reply with something like, "The woman who murdered her parents" or "she got away with murder." Really? This in itself shows how far rumor, myth, and societal prejudice can become "fact" in many people’s minds. It seems most people’s opinions, the general public perception, of this woman is based on taking a sordid rhyme as a statement of fact…such is the degree of intelligence of public perception on anything. Those far from critical thought need only hear an individual is charged with a crime to assume guilt…then and now.

The following is but a brief summary of my opinion based upon countless hours of research of and my discernment of Lizbeth Borden (the name she used and was known by for most of her adult life).

Amidst the common misconceptions of Lizzie Borden today, few now or then possess the objectivity to question the common hyperbole of gossip or false assumptions which have become somehow ingrained as "fact" (which is what most people’s opinions when asked about her emanate from) nor are they aware of the downright despicable hounding of the young woman by the prosecutor prior to coming before a court. Due to that inquest (without her lawyer present), that testimony (which I’ve read) was stricken from admissibility in the trial.

Based upon my extensive research, and in particular my reading of the inquest of Ms. Borden and the inquests of others related to the case, it is my opinion that Lizzie Borden’s fate to be actually charged with the murders was a result of over-zealousness. Of course, prosecutors and judges must make a judgment call in every case, however in my judgment there was just no compelling reason (due to lack of evidence) to indict her.

The atrocious line of questioning and her answers during the inquest, reflects not upon Lizzie Borden who was suffering from the tragic loss of her father (along with physical stress of the time of her menstrual period which was known to be particularly difficult for her) as well her receipt from her doctor of high doses of morphine to assist her, but upon a prosecutor who in my opinion went far beyond merely truth-seeking in his questioning, but rather turned the inquest into what would better be referred to as an inquisition. Ridiculous is the word which comes to mind upon reading said transcript(s) of Ms. Borden’s inquest and that of others he questioned at that time.

An inquest should be an objective investigation, a hearing of testimonies of interested parties, it should simply be the evidence gathering to be provided a judge to make his decision as to whether an arrest/indictment is justified. This interrogation, under physical and emotional duress and without the counsel requested, appears to me more an attempt to break her than simply extract the truth (consider Knowlton’s explicit description of her father Andrew’s face and injuries – completely unnecessary, in my opinion, in his questioning of her at that point. It seems to me more a point of shock value meant to disturb her, versus mere questioning.)

Inquest Testimony Supports Her Innocence

Thus, after having read that transcript, knowing the circumstances upon which she was interrogated, I find the few minor inconsistencies in her answers a likely and understandable result of the stress she was under, as well as giving the ring of truth to her answers.

One who can fluently recollect their behavior down to the slightest trivial matters on what (as far as they knew at the time) was to be an ordinary day is far more suspicious than one who may be unable to, for certain, give accurate details on matters such as what they ate, time-frames between mundane activities such as reading/ironing/carrying laundry upstairs, etc. and remembrances of the order upon one which entered various rooms in one’s home.

Think about it, if I were to begin questioning you in minute detail as to your every action on a a day one week ago, you would be able to give me generalities, based on mostly vague recall, along with a few certainties that stand out. You would not, it having been a normal average day in your life, be able to provide extremely accurate answers to the precise order in which you clothed, ate, did laundry, or whatever activities you performed. This is because you had no reason to remember relatively mundane activities. In general, I feel it is liars, one who have a rehearsed story to rely on, who provide accurate down to the detail accounts, not ordinary people living their lives who have no reason to remember a day’s activities…until something happens on that day…and from such a time (not prior), recall, becomes more accurate.

Lizzy’s answers have the ring of truth to them, and I found nothing she was asked and replied to during the inquest amounted to anything substantial against her. Actually, considering the extreme duress she was under, I found much of what she said articulate, thoughtful, and well-spoken. I was impressed by her relative composure and lack of emotionalism (the very attributes some listening to her apparently found disturbing), and I identify with the personality and qualities of mind she evinced. She spoke as I would speak -calmly-deliberately-and strongly- when truth must be said amidst those who one has rational cause to assume are hostile interrogators.

The inquest testimony was not allowed into trial due to the absence of her lawyer and the circumstances of pressure placed upon her. Though I find nothing disturbing in that testimony considering the circumstances of duress she was under, the prosecution, without this weak attempt to discredit her, had nothing else but more incredibly weak circumstantial evidence – in my opinion, more supposition than anything else (the same "arguments" used by those who today base their opinion of guilt upon – the same "arguments" which a bit of research easily dispels.) Despite the relentless and often nonsensical questioning of what seems a frustrated Knowlton, Lizzie Borden never allowed him to provoke her into anger or hysteria.

Reading the inquest, I interpret him as an attorney with a big ego, one who seems to have no intellectual appreciation for a woman who answers his repetitive annoying (and to me, often nonsensical) pedantic questioning so relatively consistently despite his attempts seemingly to provoke her into emotionalism; it is as if he cannot understand (or does not want to understand) logical, rational answers. Listening and interpreting certainly do not appear high on his list of priorities when interrogating Lizzie Borden; judgment, however, seemed to be. (Reading the trial transcripts produced the identical view for me prosecutor Knowlton, and I cite his June 15, 1893 cross-examination of the ice cream man, Hyman Lubinsky, as another clear example of why I have little respect for Knowlton’s performance as an attorney during this case.) He seems a man more controlled by emotionalism than logic or rationality.

Men at the time based on numerous accounts I’ve read, seemed to expect a female to either be somewhat hysterical or at least possess some politically/socially correct expression of "love" for a stepmother, while in Lizzie we find a calm, collected, woman who simply speaks the truth of her relationship with the woman (Abby, wife of Lizzy’s father) as she always had to friends and others who knew her – without malice, but with objectivity, and no false (non-heartfelt) emotionalism which many women are prone to.

She could easily have feigned love for the dead woman, but rather simply objectively described the precise relationship, such as it was. Again, the ring of truth.

"The Calmness of Innocence"

My interpretation/opinion of the inquest: it depicts an aggressive questioner becoming embarrassed as a woman with greater intelligence and emotional maturity simply states answers which, reflect not negatively upon her, but upon the questioner. In my opinion, the severe questioning, and her earnest answers sans counsel, was a negative reflection upon Hosea M. Knowlton (District Attorney), not Lizzie Borden. (The prosecution during her trial was comprised of Hosea Knowlton as lead prosecutor and his co-counsel of William Moody. Shortly after the trial, Knowlton became Attorney General of Massachusetts.)

Indeed, her counsel (the Borden family attorney), Mr. Jennings, argued of what he viewed as the violation of her constitutional rights concerning the process thereto presented to the judge who would decide whether a prosecution would take place, stating she had a right to appear before "a court of unprejudiced opinion," since what the judge had to consider was the testimony in the questionable inquest to which he was barred from attending (despite his making it clear he was to be present at such proceedings) thus stating it was his concern the current proceeding was not before "an impartial magistrate." He argued it appeared they had decided who was guilty long ago and rather than arrest her attempted their own pseudo-trial (my term) in private versus a public trial where she would be defended.

District Attorney Knowlton, however, successfully argued all was done in accordance with the law which allowed him to give witnesses the choice between three possibilities: to tell what they knew, go to jail for contempt, or give a plea of exemption on grounds it would incriminate them.

A grand jury followed by indictment and trial proceeded making her name forever infamous among true crime in the United States.

I consider her subsequent indictment more a reflection upon a legal decision with which I disagree than anything else, as I see no evidence warranting being charged for the crime. Such decisions are subjective judgment calls, and the judge made his based on his perception of what he had been given.

The inability to be disturbed to any self-implication during the inquest, and her general demeanor throughout the ordeal, I view as did her pastor, Rev. Buck, who said, "…her calmness is the calmness of innocence." (The Fall River Herald, "Taken to Taunton" article at the time).

What most people, due to their emotionalism, fail to understand is that those of us who are intellectually and emotionally developed simply speak the truth without resorting to shows of wild feelings. The difference, strange and thus incomprehensible to emotionally controlled people, makes us unemotional when others in same situation would become wild in their physical and emotional demeanor. I’ll give you a simple example: If someone calls someone you love a name…you either get angry and want to get back at them OR you consider the source and think how pathetic they are and you remain calm, void of reaction. That difference is the chasm between emotionalism and rationality. And that, in my opinion, is what is witnessed in Lizzy Borden’s calmness despite the outrageous line of questioning versus what how your average woman and many average men would behave when confronted with an unpleasant or irrational question/statement.

Lizzie Borden’s defense counsel consisted of George Robinson (lead counsel), the Massachusetts’ Governor 1884-1886, and her family’s attorney Andrew Jennings.

Upon reading the transcript of those who testified at the trial (in addition to the inquest testimonies of the many called to give testimony then as well as during the trial), one with any degree of legal understanding as to "guilty" versus "not guilty" must conclude the jury certainly provided a correct verdict under jurisprudence. This, alone, however, does not for innocence make, although in legal consideration I view it was a correct verdict per the rule of law.

Although the actual events of that fateful day of August 4, 1892 will never be known, I firmly believe she to be innocent of the crimes she was put on trial for. Further, I view her as a compassionate, creative, and loving individual…and a remarkable one compared to most of my sisters considering her high degree of rational fortitude.

More here

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