Testimony of John W. Coughlin in the Trial of Lizzie Borden
June 14, 1893

I am a physician and surgeon in Fall River. I was, in I892, and now am, Mayor of that city. On Saturday evening following the murders, I went to the Borden house with City Marshal Hilliard. There were large numbers of people around the house: the sidewalk on the east side, both to the south and north, was crowded; the middle of the street was so crowded that we had difficulty in driving through without running down some of the people. I notified the Marshal that they should be removed. We drove to a police box; he got out and pulled in the box.

We went into the house; the first person I saw was Miss Emma; we sat down in the parlor and had an interview with all the family, with Miss Lizzie, Miss Emma and Mr. Morse. I said, "I have a request to make of the family, and that is that you remain in the house for a few days, as I believe it would be better for all concerned if they did so." There was a question arose-I think "Miss Lizzie, to the best of my recollection-Miss Lizzie, asked me, "Why, is there anybody in this house suspected?" I said, "Well, perhaps Mr. Morse can answer that question better than I, as his experience last night, perhaps, would justify him in the inference that somebody in this house was suspected."

Miss Lizzie said, "I want to know the truth." And I believe that she repeated the statement. "Well," I said, "Miss Borden, I regret to answer, but I must answer yes, you are suspected." And if I remember rightly, at that time Miss Borden, replying, said, "I am ready to go now."

Miss Emma Borden said, "Well, we have tried to keep it from her as long as we could." I asked Miss Lizzie where she went after leaving her father. She said she went to the barn for some lead for sinkers. I asked her how long she remained in the barn. She said about twenty minutes.

I then said, "If you are disturbed in any way, or if you are annoyed by the crowds upon the street, I would like to have you notify the officer in the yard and instruct him to inform the Marshal, or if you do not desire to do that, if you will inform me I shall see that you receive all the protection that the police department can afford." On leaving I think Miss Emma said, "We want to do everything we can in this matter."

And on leaving I stated that I would return on Sunday; but I did not, on account of my mother being taken ill.


Q. [By Mr. Robinson] You had said, as I understand it, you did the talking in the parlor?

A. I believe I did.

Q. The Marshal did not participate in that?

A. I would not swear he did not.

Q. Do you recall that he did?

A. He may have re-affirmed what I said about the request to remain in the house. I don't recall that he entered into any lengthy conversation.

Q. You had advised them to remain in the house and on the premises?

A. Yes sir, I did.

Q. And thereupon Miss Lizzie said, "Why, is there anybody in this house suspected?"

A. To the best of my knowledge.

Q. Spoke right up to you earnestly and promptly, did she?

 A. She made that statement.

Q. Will you answer my question?

The CHIEF JUSTICE. He may answer.

[The question was repeated] You understand it?

A. Yes sir.

Q. Will you give me an answer? 

A. She spoke up somewhat excitedly, I should say.

Q. She did?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What did you say to her?

A. When she asked me if there was somebody in the house suspected, I replied by stating that Mr. Morse could best answer that question, as the experience of last night would justify him in drawing the inference that there was.

Q. What was the next thing?

A. Lizzie said, "I want to know the truth."

Q. Lizzie said so?

A. Yes sir, and she repeated it, if I remember rightly.
Q. Before you answered?

A. Yes sir.

Q. What did you say?

A. I said, "I regret, Miss Borden, but I must answer yes, you are suspected."

Q. What did she say?

A. She said, as I now recall it, "I am ready to go now."

Q. "Or any time", didn't she? A. I cannot recall that; she may have said it.

Q. Spoke up earnestly and promptly then, didn't she?

A. It would depend altogether what you mean by "earnestly" and "promptly".

Q. I mean what you know the words mean?

A. She replied in a manner you can call earnestly and promptly. There was no hesitation

about it.

Q. That is, promptly, no hesitation, isn't it? You understand that, don't you?

A. I do, yes sir.

Q. Now did she speak earnestly?

A. Well, I would not say she did not speak earnestly.

Q. What is that? A. I should say I would not say she did not speak earnestly.

Q. I know you say so. Did she speak earnestly?

A. Well, I should say yes, she spoke earnestly so far as the promptness of the question goes.

Q. Do you know any difference between promptness and earnestness?
A. There is a difference between promptness and earnestness.

Q. Keeping that distinction in mind, you say she answered you, did she, earnestly?

A. She did, as far as I am—

Q. What is that? A. As far as I would be able to determine by her action, she was earnest.

Q. That is what I asked you, prompt and earnest. What was then said?

A. I believe I said that if the people annoyed them in any way, that they should notify the officer in the yard and instruct him to tell the Marshal.

Q. Hadn't you said that before this other conversation? Didn't it come in earlier?

A. No sir, it was about when I was ready to go.

Q. When was it Miss Emma told you she wanted you to do everything you could about it?

A. About when I was ready to go.

Q. That was after you said in her presence that her sister was suspected?

A. Yes sir.

Q. She wanted you to do everything you could about it?

A. Yes sir.

Q. That is all?

A. That is all I now recall.