It was a sweltering June 5th 1893 in Massachusetts, in a courthouse the trial was about to begin for what may be the most famous and grisly murders in American history. The accused was a thirty year old upper class women. Her crime was the double murder of her father and stepmother. The ensuing trial of Lizzie Borden still remains just as controversial to this day.
The prosecution claimed that on August 4th Lizzie took out a hatchet from the basement and used it to strike her father Andrew Borden and step mother Abby Borden a brutal 29 times. They claim Lizzie first attacked Abby and then waited for her father to return home and killed him over an hour later. The defense instead suggested that Lizzie could not have committed the crime since she was out of the home doing some chores at the time. They also reasoned would not have had time to clean herself up in the time before she told her maid what had happened.
The prosecution made their argument first that Lizzie had an unfriendly relationship with both her father and step mother, this was a story collaborated by a close friend Hannah Gilford. They pointed out that Lizzie would have had the motive of a quite sizable inheritance of over 10 million dollars in today’s money. They alerted the jury to the fact that before the murders Lizzie had attempted to by highly poisonous prussic acid from a local drug store and that both Andrew and Abby had been seriously sick before the murders.
With motive established the prosecution then brought out their main witnesses Bridget Sullivan who said she was the one who let Andrew in and that no one but she and Lizzie were home. She also said that it was her that Lizzie alerted to her father’s murder. The prosecution also bought out the head of a small hatchet missing its handle that they claim was the murder weapon and matched the holes left in the skulls of Andrew and Abby Borden. Even more damning was the testimony of Alice Russell who said she saw Lizzie burning the blue dress she wore. When Alice confronted her Lizzie said she was burning it because she had gotten paint on it.
The prosecution was also able to discredit her alibi. She claimed that she couldn’t have committed the murders because at the time she was in the barn looking for fishing weights, Investigators said they could find no evidence anyone was in the barn near the time of the murder. The Prosecutor seemed to prove that Lizzie had motive, method, and means to have committed the murders. Even worse she was caught red handed destroying evidence.
Now it was the defense’s turn and they proceeded to poke holes in the prosecution’s version of events. One of the main points they brought up was the lack of forensic evidence. The defense also pointed out the axe head the prosecution claimed was used to butcher the Borden’s was completely clean of blood. The room that Andrew was murdered in was supposedly clean of blood splatter for a place where something so grisly took place.
What is even more curious none of the witnesses claimed to see a drop of blood on Lizzie. The defense argued that only at most 11 minutes passed from the slaying of Andrew Borden and when Lizzie yelled for Bridget Sullivan. How would she have had time to clean up and change close, then clean and hide the murder weapon.
The defense also disputed the claims that Lizzie had issues with her parents. Bridget Sullivan even said in her testimony that the Borden family acted like you would expect any normal family to act. The fact that she was active member of the church and much more apart of here community her father had been was also brought up. They claimed it was just as likely that one of the many people Andrew Borden angered by his business practices committed the crimes.
The jury was made up of twelve men that heard both sides. When they went into deliberation it only took them an hour and a half to achieve their verdict. The verdict was not guilty of all crimes and Lizzie was let free. To this day both amateur sleuths and legal experts argue the Borden case. It’s easy to claim that Lizzie was the one responsible but the very fact we are still arguing this case means it can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and that is why Lizzy spent the rest of her life in a mansion built with her inheritance then in a cold jail cell