It’s been a weekend for controversial jury decisions.
The Philandro Castille and Bill Cosby cases both made headlines on Saturday when the Castille verdict came back not guilty and Cosby’s jury of his peers were unable to reach a decision.
And then, there’s that texting suicide thing!
I’ve been on a jury, so I can envision the debate – the jury on which I sat had a few who were sympathetic to the plaintiff who was suing a railroad company for damages because his vehicle was hit by one of their trains.
It was clear to most of us that he was trespassing, lied on the witness stand, and was clearly drunk when he pulled out in front of a train that sunny Florida day. But there were still folks on the jury who wanted to give him some of CSX’s cash, I mean, after all, “…someone has to pay his doctor bills…”
As the jury foreman (surprise!!) I was most determined to not let that happen.
Though it was in the case I was involved in, Justice isn’t always done…
Today is the 124th anniversary of the verdict in the Lizzie Borden murder trial.
Lizzie was accused of taking a hatchet and murdering her father and step-mother.
Though historical evidence demonstrates that she probably did do the deeds, she was acquitted.
Her peers consisted of twelve men as women could not serve on a Massachusetts jury at that time.
There are theories galore as to what really happened, one being that the men were incapable of condemning a woman to death.
One theory is that she committed the murders in a “fugue state” brought on by physical and sexual abuse by her father. There is no evidence to support either the fugue state or the abuse. And no one in 1898 would have broached the subject!
Some want to blame the maid, Bridget Sullivan, who had been cleaning windows on a blisteringly hot day and recovering from a “mystery” illness that had cursed the entire family, flew into a rage and offed the elderly couple.
Some say Sullivan did it due to the fact that Mrs. Borden caught her in flagrante delicto with Lizzie, and indeed later on it was rumored that Borden was a lesbian. Sullivan later married a man and worked again as a domestic – it’s highly unlikely that anyone in town bought this one! Or even talked about it!
And of course there’s the bastard son theory. William Borden, allegedly the love child of Andrew and a tart, allegedly tried to extort cash from the very wealthy Borden, and failing to do so killed the old man.
Lizzie’s sister, Emma, doesn’t get left out either. A rock solid alibi at the time kept her in the clear, but detectives and investigators today say Emma could have slipped back into Fall River, committed the murders, and dashed back to Fairhaven in time to tip the Western Union boy when he delivered the telegram advising her of her parents’ demise.
One last theory, which didn’t get much traction at the time, is that Borden’s brother-in-law from his first marriage and Lizzie’s maternal uncle, John Morse was the culprit. He did come to visit the Bordens and spent the night before the murders with them. His visits were rare, his relationship with Borden tense in that he disapproved of Borden’s remarriage, and he was known to be churlish. But, the police, though considering him a person of interest, never seriously considered him.
Regardless of the mountain of evidence against her, her jury deliberated one and one half hours before coming back with a verdict of Not Guilty.
Truth be told, we do not know what they knew and we do not know what made them decide in the manner they did.
Just as now, though we all have our firm beliefs and convictions on both the Castille and Cosby cases, we weren’t on the jury, and we just don’t know.