The Boston Globe
June 14, 1893

What if Lizzie Did Ask for Acid?
Defense Claims That Proves Nothing.

State Says It Shows Murderous Intent.
Admission of the Evidence In Hot Dispute.Matron Reagan on the Witness Stand.
Swears the Prisoner Scored Her Sister.
"You've Given Me Away" Episode in Testimony.Bridget Sullivan and Dr Dolan Recalled.

NEW BEDFORD, June 14-"I was standing in the closet not more than four feet away when Lizzie, who was lying on the sofa said to her sister, “So you have given me away, haven't you?' To which Emma replied, 'No, I haven't,' and Lizzie, measuring the end of her forefinger with her thumb, said, "Well, I won't give in that much.”-Matron Reagan.

Still more surprises, more contradictions, more arguments in the absence of the jury, more police stupidity, more illustration of the folly of zeal by witnesses, and more discomfort, heat and humidity combined, than I had supposed possible in a city so advantageously situated as this in the leafy month of June. A heavy downfall of rain, lasting pretty much all night, gave us hope of a decent temperature today, but the red-hot sun brushed every semblance of the temperate zone away, and before the slanting of an early line began its horizontal course, umbrellas, palm leaf fans and iced drinks were in demand.

It had been a brutal day on the street and one utterly indescribable in the cramped quarters of this country Courthouse. How the Jury endure the strain physical I cannot understand.  When I reached the court this morning the Jury were entering the lower door, the cabinet justice with a new high white hat, the others in the customary black stovepipe tile.  They were in excellent humor, laughing and chatting about a thousand and one things irrelevant to the situation.

Burly Dist. Atty. Knowlton rushed up the stairs two steps at a time, quickly and closely followed by his younger and smaller associate, Mr. Moody, both anxious and with determination in every glance. In the witness room sat Bridget Sullivan with a countenance as impassive as that of a graven image and a number of odd looking women clad in black.  They subsequently made their appearance, one after another on the witness stand. Within the bar were the usual aggregation of local celebrities.  Mr. Davis, treasurer of the Massachusetts board of trade, the experts who testified yesterday several freshly arrived ministers and the counsel for the defense.  All looking with comparative cheerfulness, through which, however, was clearly distinct a very natural condition of anxiety. That jury needs watching. By that I mean they are wilting in this torridic atmosphere, subjected as they are to more unusual confinement and seclusion. Not alone from their ordinary occupation but from out of door exercise and ealthful condition to which one and all are used.

Sheriff Wright, accompanied by bill bright-eyed daughter, came into the court and as usual rapped on the desk immediately, and to the standing audience announced "the court."  His deputy, my particular friend and neighbor, Mr. Butman with due solemnity counted the jury from 1 to 12 and announced in the name of the creator and the commonwealth or Massachusetts that a full dozen of the men and true were present then and there. The jurors looked upon the prisoner and prisoner upon the Jurors. She saw 12 jaded, tired men and they a very pale swollen-faced dreamy-eyed, expressionless featured woman.

Resembling a Hunted Fox

The proceedings of the day might very well be divided into three parts, first the police effort; second, the matron's testimony; and. third the prussic-acid argument. Marshal Hilliard, the deus ex machina of the whole business, who made up his mind in the earliest stage of the game that the Fall River police must have a theory, and having one substantiate it, was the first witness. He is a tine, orderly looking man, what the women call a nice looking man, and I should judge self-reliance to be his chief characteristic. He testified as to the search made on the morning of the murder and recounted the sensational conversation he had, or rather listened to between the mayor, "uncle" Morse and Lizzie and Emma Borden. The marshal testified at considerable length as to property belonging to the Bordens which he, in his official capacity, took from the house and has since retained.

Under cross-examination of Gov Robinson he described his search, which in no sense differed from that given by the other policemen, everyone swearing that they not-only encountered no opposition in their search but received all possible help and much material assistance from the people in the house, Miss Emma saying to him that she wanted them to make as thorough an examination as possible, and if there was a box or trunk which could not be opened to send for her and it would be opened. "Our whole search," said the marshal, smilingly, "as the doctors call it, was with a negative result."

Much More Excitement.

Fall River is fortunate in having a mayor who is not only a pleasant faced, courteous mannered individual; but a square politician and a surgeon of repute. Mayors, like other dignitaries amount to something in this part of the world and are literally, as they are called. the chief magistrates in their several localities. He testified that be ordered the crowd removed from the house, the sidewalk and the premises, and that calling the family together he requested them to remain in the house for a few days and also to the conversation he had with the young woman when he told Miss Lizzie that she was suspected of the murder.  They had such conversation as would naturally occur under the circumstances between a somewhat embarrassed official and two agitated young women, and when he left, Miss Emma said "I want you to do everything you can to find out this murder."    From the mayor's manner and words the inference is fairly drawn that nothing occurred at the time of his visit which could in any way reflect against them the marshal or himself.

A curious looking individual by the name of Gifford swore that at one time when she was talking with Lizzie about a garment she had made for her mother Lizzie said, "Oh, don't say that. She's a mean thing, and I don't have much to do with her.

A number of minor characters, a hostler, a mason, a laborer and little French wood sawyer gave some unimportant testimony to the effect that they were working in sundry adjacencies to the Borden house and saw no one pass on the morning of the murder.

Then came a sensation in the testimony as well as the manner and the presence of Hannah Reagan, matron of a Fall River police station, where she has charge of the women who are detained for whatever purpose. She is a very zealous witness for the prosecution, with a bulky encyclopedia easily and readily tapped by the counsel for the government, but which is drier than a bone and is hard to penetrate when assaulted by the counsel for the defense.

Divested of the verbiage of the learned brother who examined her and of herself as well, she testified a most interesting memorization of the date in as much as she could remember no other date, that on the 24th of last August about two minutes of 9 in the morning, Miss Lizzie Borden being detained a prisoner in the matron's room. Her sister, Emma Borden, called to see her.  Lizzie was lying on a lounge.  The witness was tidying up the room.  As Emma entered, the witness stepped into a closet some four feet from the lounge.

Accosting her sister, Lizzie said: So you have given me away, haven't you?" to which Emma replied, “No, I haven't," and Lizzie, measuring the end of her forefinger with her thumb, said "Well, I won't give in that much."

"I was standing in the doorway at the time" said the witness, said Lizzie spoke as loud as I now speak, so I heard distinctly every word that was said.  Emma took a chair and sat down by the settee, but Lizzie turned her back to her and didn't speak a word more during her visit, nor did she say goodbye when she went away."

Under cross-examination of Mr. Jennings whose manner is particularly clean cut, emphatic and understandable, the witness was very much confused and imitated Dr Dolan in his famous sentence of "I don’t remember" reply to Mr Jennings, she said: "you passed me and Emma as she started to go home, and you said to her, have you told all to Lizzie?'  You remained till half past 12, and Lizzie was very much more excited a
fter yon went than before you came in."

 As to the second visit in the afternoon by Emma to her sister, the witness was greatly embarrassed by the cross-questioning, which was cool, concise and confusing.  She couldn't remember about the time of Emmas second visit, nor could she recall who was present in the matron's room, if anyone was and testified that she was so excited and worked up by the quarrel of the morning that to all intents and purposes her mind was a blank as to what occurred thereafter.

In some way or other on the day on which Lizzie is alleged to have accused Emma of having given her away a report of it reached the newspaper and as there was no one present with the exception of the two sisters and the eavesdropping matron the reporters naturally hunted, Mrs Reagan up and wanted to know all about it.

 In reply to Mr. Jennings close questioning she denied having told the reporters that the story was a lie and that she told Rev Mr. Buck that it was a lie.

A typewritten statement was shown her, which Mr. Jennings says was handed to her by Rev Mr. Buck, it being a denial that there had been any quarrel between the sisters, with the request that she should sigh it.  She denied ever having seen the paper with knowledge of its contents, but swore that Mr. Buck flourished the paper before her and a large number of others in the court room, asking her to sign it, to which she replied that if the marshal would permit her she would do so; that the story was a lie; that she and the minister then went to the marshal who said “What this woman has to say she will say to the court. Go to your room and mind your prisoner."

She denied that the marshal forbid her to sign it.,  denied seeing counselor Jennings in the marshal's office and emphatically repudiated as false and without a shadow of foundation a matter which was supposed to be in dispute and as to which she will be directly and promptly contradicted by Rev Mr. Buck, several ladies who were in the matron's room when she returned and possibly by counselor Jennings himself, who knows the story from start to finish, all of which he saw and much of which he was.

Mr. Jennings is authority for the assertion that he went in person to the marshal and asked him why he objected to the matron's signing what he knew to be the truth, and that when he further refused to allow the woman to sign it and ordered her back to her room, he, Jennings, threatened to publish him to the world, and he has done it.

The prosecution has been cursed by the over-zeal of its witnesses, and the good lady who nervously spoke her piece today, remembering too much for one side and not enough for another, is a fair type of the silly pride which goes before a fatal fall.

 You remember, I have called attention once or twice to the aim of the prosecution, which are to show, first, premeditation, and second, exclusive opportunity.  The claim that premeditation was shown by Lizzie's attempt to purchase prussic acid on Tuesday and by her conversation with old lady Russell as to her apprehensions lest something might happen to her father on Wednesday.  The latter the prosecution put in evidence when Lizzie's former friend, Alice Russell of Fall River, turned against her on the stand the other day and told with great gusto about the burning of the dress about the conversations between her and Lizzie as to the troubles at home, the quarrels with the tenants and so on, and they sought to strengthen that today by the introduction of testimony to the effect that Lizzie went to a Fall River drug store some time before the murder and asked for 10 cents worth of prussic acid with which to clean a sealskin sack.

When the witness, a drug clerk Eli Bense by name, began his testimony Miss Borden fairly glared at him leaned forward and stared him squarely in the eye.  It was a new departure and possibly he may not have been prepared for it.  However, that may be the clerk a good natured fellow blushed and stammered as he hurriedly replied, "I do."  Before clerk Borden had finished the phraseology of the oath.

At this time there were two matters of interest before the court, Miss Borden's agitation and the collapse of the matron in an outside room Gov Robinson ca1med his client by a few reassuring remarks. The matron having left the stand staggered rather than walked through the adjacent room, where the bloodstained lounge stood, challenging attention into the next apartment where deputy sheriff Falvey gave her a glass of water, which she swallowed at a gulp and then sat upon a lounge in the retiring room where the treasurer of the Fall River bank for savings fanned her leaned over her and. comforted her with words of consolation.

It was evident that a fight was on hand between the learned brothers, and Mr. Moody in his blandly courteous way informed the court that, as the question would have to be decided sooner or later he thought it would be well to direct the jury to retire in order that that the question as to the admission offered by the prosecution might be presented to the court.  The chief justice with the concurrence of his associates ordered the coordinate branch of the court to retire, whereupon the jury, in custody of the deputy sheriff, left the room and know no more concerning the developments of the rest of the day than the pigeons on the roof the bootblacks on the sidewalk, or the old cow ruminating in her stall.  Yet it was a very important matter for Mr. Moody in behalf of the prosecution offered to prove that Lizzie not only, tried once, but twice, to buy prussic acid, which is not an article of general commerce or one ordinarily purchased by young women of innocent intents.

Gov Robinson fortified his objection by the evidence of the experts, who testified that there wasn't a trace of poison in either of the bodies and argues that he really didn't see how the prosecution could prove that Lizzie Borden did the murders with an ax or hatchet as charged in the indictment, because two days before she tried to buy some prussic acid.

 To this Mr. Moody rejoined that it was evidence of premeditation and it was certainly one link in a chain of suspicious circumstances. It was known that she tried to get the poison and it was also known that the next night the entire family were so ill that Mrs Borden sent for the doctor, saying that she had been poisoned.  That evening the conversation with old lady Russell occurred and the following morning the murders were committed by someone.

These incidents, Mr. Moody claimed, were proof of a murderous state of mind, and he cited a large number of cases to substantiate his insistence that the introduction of this line of proof was entirely proper and in line with authorities.

 Gov Robinson replied, following out his argument based on the evidence of experts and insisting that the prussic acid business had nothing whatever to do with the case.

 After consultation the chief justice announced that the court was disposed to admit the testimony under certain conditions, and with that suggestion they would hold the matter in abeyance until tomorrow morning.

 If, therefore, tomorrow the prosecution is permitted to utilize the prussic acid incident as corroborative proof of premeditation, a new element will have been added which in all candor it must be conceded by the warmest friends of the prisoner tends somewhat to becloud the defense, which down to date, very decidedly had the best of the investigation.

 The heat tonight is something fearful and if the court proceedings begin at 9 and continue until 5 I don’t see but what a charge of premeditated manslaughter might be suggested against them in case the jurors melt In their seats or the prisoner goes mad.

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