Arguably three of the most sensational criminal trials in American history are the Commonwealth vs. Borden, California vs. Simpson and Los Angeles vs. Rodney King. All three of these cases received unprecedented amounts of media attention and verdicts from the jury that shocked the country. In my opinion justice, especially social and moral justice, was not achieved in these trials. Social class, race and gender all had a huge impact on the jury’s decisions in each of these cases. High priced defense attorneys were able to place reasonable doubt in the minds of the jurors despite the substantial amount of evidence proving the seemingly obvious guilt of Borden, Simpson and the Los Angeles Police department. This paper will focus on these criminal trials and the fact that justice or moral rightness was not achieved by the outcome of the jury verdicts.
The trial of Lizzie Borden, in June of 1893, captivated the nation. It was covered extensively in newspapers throughout the country probably, in part, because it was extremely rare for a woman to commit a horrific act such as the one she was accused of. Being from a wealthy family that outwardly seemed happy and normal, made it very difficult for people to believe that a woman with her background could be responsible for the bludgeoning death of her father Andrew Borden, a predominate member of town, and her stepmother Abby Borden. The police, however, came to the conclusion that the Borden’s murderer must have been someone within the home since the house was otherwise untouched, nothing was missing and there was no sign of any commotion. The only person having both the motive and opportunity to commit these murders was Thirty three year old Lizzie Borden.
Here are some intriguing facts of the case: Lizzie was the only person in the house besides the housekeeper who at the time of the murders was in her room resting. She tried purchasing prussic acid the day before the murders, also her parents suffered from severe stomach sickness in the days before their untimely deaths. Relations between Lizzie and her stepmother were strained. There was a newly broken axe found in the basement of the home but fingerprinting was not allowed. Lizzie was known to have “funny spells” which caused her to act oddly and erratically. At the time of the murders she claimed to have been in the barn loft, which would have been stifling hot, looking for fishing lures she surely knew were not there but at their vacation home. A friend, Alice Russell, saw Lizzie burning a light blue dress that Lizzie claimed was old and covered in paint. She was, however, seen wearing a similar dress on the day of the murders.
Based on all the above information, how is it possible that the jury deliberated for a mere hour and a half before returning with a not guilty verdict? Well, the highly skilled defense team used holes in the prosecution’s case to cast doubt in the minds of the jurors. Where, the defense asked, was the handle that...