Experts Yield No Clew to Crime
Spots on Axes Were From Rust
Lizzie’s Garments Pass the Ordeal
One Suspicious Blot Found on Her Skirt
Stains Were Not What They Seemed
Theories as to How the Deed Was Done
Surgeons Puzzled by the Thrusts of Counsel
Danger that Trial May be Interrupted
New Bedford, June 13– Three questions presented themselves during the morning session, after a hot session, a humidity ridden session, a miserable, poky, mind-wearying, physique-exhausting session.
First – In view of the extraordinary weakness manifested by Lizzie Borden when the skulls were first produced in court the other day, still covered, what may be expected from her in her present mentally anxious and physically weakened state, when the skulls in all their naked hideousness are not only produced but handled and described?
Second – In case she breaks down, as is not at all impossible, can the trial proceed? Proceed in her absence, even by mutual consent of the commonwealth and the prisoner?
Third – In view of an occurrence in the jury box today, will the case stand if 11 jurors continue in the box, and will it be possible for the trial to proceed without the full complement even with the consent of the prisoner and the commonwealth?
This has been a most extraordinary trial in the development of special features, each day furnishing its full share of unexpected and sensational incidents.
Today broke with a suggestion of rain, but the spattering which fell in the early morning hours seemed only to intensify the discomfort and the irritation of all enveloped by the steaming atmosphere.
The judges, happily tempered individuals, having largely control of their own movements, literally so indeed, save and except their hours of confinement in the court room, were about the only ones who appeared bright, alert and ready for business.
The court room was early and easily filled, leaving enough people on the outside to crowd a dozen such edifices.
Miss Lizzie, escorted by an attentive deputy sheriff, clad al a mode, but very pale and nervously anticipating the horrors of the day, took her seat near Gov. Robsinon, where she was pleasantly greeted by her clerical friend and her counsel, but not by any one of the wild-eyed, haggard-featured, thick-skinned women who stared at her through their spectacles and opera glasses as though she were a beast.
Counsellor Adams continued the cross-examination of medical examiner Dolan, consuming much time and entering at great length into the edge of the hatchet, the condition of the blade, the direction from which the blood spots came, the state of Mrs. Borden’s hair, whether it was false or natural, the number and the character of the wounds, and his opinion as to the style of implement with which the killing had been done.
No development in that jury box will cause surprise, although many will occasion excitement.
This morning while Dr. Dolan was indulging in particularly revolting photographs, it was noticed that Mr. Hodges was very faint.
The Irishman who sits by his side fanned him attentively, and he struggled with the fan himself.
A glass of water failed to revive him, and the chief justice, who is ever on the watch, appreciating the gravity of the situation, directed the jury to retire for five minutes.
Dolan, who is a bright fellow, and an excellent arguer, seemed to have an idea that he must bother the defense as much as possible, and aid the prosecution as far as was possible, so he continually fenced with Mr. Adams, who, adroit and unimpassioned, drew from him the admission that he knew nothing about the deaths of the Bordens or as to the relative points of when they occurred.
On the redirect he told with evident gusto how after the services, when the bodies were carried to the cemetery to be buried, they were first subjected to mutilation, their heads being cut off, their stomachs taken out and a general examination made, after which what was left of them, he believed, was buried.
Prof. Wood of Boston, professor of chemistry in Harvard college, one of the most respected authorities, and the expert in chief for the commonwealth in this case, is a strikingly handsome man, with graying hair, very red face, a bright eye and a modest nature, in private conversation a typical gentleman.
Brother Knowlton, in his most gracious way, gently led the professor along a commendatory autobiography, eliciting the fact that he is an expert in medical chemistry, and is in every sense of the topmost twig of his branch of a dignified and honorable profession.
Prof. Wood’s testimony was of a negative nature, and might quite as well have been directed by the defence as by the prosecution.
He lifted the entire procedure up to a higher level, into a purer atmosphere, where not only truth, but the whole truth, seemed to be a theme, and he gave his testimony with an honest vigor as though lecturing to a class, impressing every hearer with its factualness.
Holding the axes in his hand the learned professor explained to the jury that the spots looked like blood, but that on examination it was found they were not blood, and he went through that entire list, with the exception of the skirt and the two pieces of carpet, with the same results.
On the white skirt he found a small blood spot much more minute than the head of the smallest pin, measuring, as near as he could get at it, one three-thousand-two-hundred and forty-thirds of an inch.
I may as well say here that the defense claim, for reasons not necessary to publish, and the proof does not interpose a negative, that this blood spot is natural.
The pieces of carpet were cut, one from beneath the lounge in the sitting room, where Mr. Borden was murdered, and one from under the bed in the guest chamber where Mrs. Borden was found.
Continuing his strange, and, to the lay mind, most unnecessary tale, from the prosecution’s point of view, the professor said he also had been directed to examine what might have been blood on the soles of Lizzie’s shoes; that he did as he was directed and the spots were not of blood.
He testified also that the spots on the small hatchet, which looked as thought they might be blood, not only were not blood, but were most pronouncedly rust.
Apropos of the handleless hatchet, the handle of which deputy marshal Fleet, by the way, has not yet accounted for, he said it was sent or given to him by marshal Hilliard, that both sides were rusty, and the bright spots now seen upon it were the results of the scrapings.
When he first looked at it he saw, as the police had, several suspicious spots, whereupon he soaked it and tested it for blood, but there was none.
This lame, impotent conclusion struck the funny bump of everybody in the audience, and when he went on to describe that the head was covered with a white film, like dirt or ashes, thereby contradicting one of his predecessors, who said it in no sense resembled ashes, and another who said it in no sense resembled dirt, everybody looked at everybody else, and a positive look of wonderment mantled the ____.
Frank W. Draper was another distinguished professor whose specialty is medical jurisprudence.
This gentleman participated in the surgical ceremonies in the cemetery, and the general autopsy that was there indulged in.
Just then the skulls were brought in and Miss Lizzie went out.
The skulls don’t look like the skulls we see in museums, dried and covered with parchment skin. They have been scraped, cleansed and whitened, the jaws being separated from the general skull.
Hideous indeed are they to casual observers, but what would they have been to Miss Lizzie Borden if she be innocent – the bandied about skulls of her father and her stepmother, with their eyeless sockets, their toothless gums, their fleshless bones, and what would they have been to Miss Lizzie Borden is she were guilty, with their gaping cuts, their cracks and splintered fragments, mute witnesses to the brutality of their assassin.
In his opinion two blows were given Mrs. Borden by the assailant when they stood face to face, all the rest being given while she was prone upon the floor, face downward and the assailant astride of her.
Mild, deliberate and gracious as Prof. Cheever was when in the hands of Mr. Knowlton, he developed antagonism when he was approached by the cross-examination of Mr. Adams, who drew from him, however, some interesting details as to his habit of dress when performing operations upon patients, from whom blood spurted in volumes, spraying his face, dyeing his whiskers and covering with blood his all-enveloping ulster or apron.
According to him there are two arteries in the head, both of which were cut in Mr. Borden’s skull, which, when severed, eject blood in spurting sprays six feet – but why dreary with these details?
Witness after witness goes over the same story, describes that with which the jury are nauseatingly familiar, proving again and again facts about which there is no dispute, that the Bordens are dead, that they were brutally murdered, that there was blood all over the place, that they had eaten a mild and moderate breakfast, all of which was found in their several intestinal parts, some digested and some not – and that’s all.
Thus far the learned brothers have not taken a step to establish the guilt of the accused, nor have they put in one scintilla of testimony which connects her with the case or which does not trend just as certainly in the direction of Bridget Sullivan as in that of Lizzie Borden. – Howard
(From Joe Howard’s reporting, from the Lizzie Borden Sourcebook, pages 271-274.)