Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Lizzie Borden

The Defense

Andrew J. Jennings
Andrew J. Jennings

Jennings was one of Fall River's most prominent citizens. He had been Andrew Borden's lawyer, and from the day of the murders on, he became Lizzie's adviser and attorney. He was a taciturn man who never spoke of the Borden case in the thirty years he lived after its conclusion. Without a doubt, it is Jennings, along with his younger colleague, Melvin Adams, who worked successfully to exclude testimony that would have been damaging to Lizzie.

George D. Robinson
George D. Robinson

However, even with his lack of legal experience, the third lawyer for the defense, George Robinson, brought a prominent and respected personality to the proceedings. The fact that he had appointed Justice Dewey to the Superior Court certainly did not hurt their cause.

Melvin O. Adams
Melvin O. Adams

For the most part, the defense called witnesses to verify the presence of a mysterious young man in the vicinity of the Borden home, and Emma Borden to verify the absence of a motive for Lizzie as the murderer.

Emma Borden is something of an enigma. She is variously described as shy, retiring, small, plain looking, thin-faced and bony an unremarkable forty-three-year-old spinster. The most well-known depiction of her is an unsatisfactory drawing made of her in court. She was supportive of Lizzie during the trial, although there is one witness, a prison matron, who testified that Lizzie and Emma had an argument when Emma was visiting her in jail.

After the trial, she and Lizzie lived together at Maplecroft. While Lizzie found it impossible to attend church because of her ostracism, Emma, unlike her previous existence, became a devoted churchgoer.

On Monday, June 19, defense attorney Robinson delivered his closing arguments and Knowlton began his closing arguments for the prosecution, completing them on the next day. Lizzie was then asked if she had anything to say. For the only time during the trial, she spoke. She said, "I am innocent. I leave it to my counsel to speak for me." Justice Dewey, who had been appointed to the Superior Court bench by then Governor Robinson, then delivered his charge to the jury, which was, in effect, a second summation of the case for the defense, remarkable in its bias.

At 3:24, the jury was sworn, given the case, and retired to carry out their deliberations. At 4:32, a little over an hour later, the jury returned with its verdict. Lizzie was found not guilty on all three charges. The jury was earnestly thanked by the court, and dismissed.

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