Blows Fell Right and Left
The Borden Murderer Swung the Axe Like a Woodchopper
Assassin Straddled his First Victim’s Body
While the Blows Were Dealt
Features Suggest the Sex of the Slayer
to Be Masculine Rather than Feminine.
Hoodoo Hatchet Fixed Upon as the Implement
Blood-Spot on Lizzie’s Skirt
the Size of a Very Small Pin Head
Testimony of Medical Experts
New Bedford, Mass,. June 13.–If Lizzie Borden is guilty the fact will be found out with a microscope and whatever instruments are used for measuring pin points. To-day the most important witnesses for the government were sworn and then it was seen that a human hair is as thick as a club alongside of the proofs on which it is hoped she may be hanged. The medical experts reached their findings with microscopes and announced them as infinitestimal fractions. The blood spot on Lizzie Borden’s white petticoat was declared to be equal in diameter to one three-thousanth part of an inch. The blood spot was the only physical thing that seemed to connect her with the crime and it is sworn to as the size of the head of a very small pin. The Government has been describing it as on the front of her skirt, but their own chief expert to-day acknowledged this to be a mistake and said the spot was on the back of the skirt below it’s opening and six inches above the hem. The expert testimony all went to prove that no blood from the victims would be likely to reach the assailants from behind. Therefore that ought to be the last of that ‘damned spot.’
Once beyond the reach of the microscope the points in the case against the prisoner today went into hypotheses, conjectures, and guesses at to the unproven circumstances. The main points in the testimony are reported in what follows, and the reader will se for himself whether it deals with facts or conjectures. The basis of all this speculation was a ground work of blood, skulls, and bowls. The blood and one skull were brought into court and handed about. Fortunately for her, Miss Lizzie Borden dodged this ghastly thing. It came in the afternoon session, just after she had complained of feeling poorly, and gone out. Her indisposition was due to the extreme heat and closeness following on a morning of sickening and horrible testimony. She had brought in a posy of bachelor’s buttons as an old maid might and she seemed in fairly good spirits. There were no other notable flowers in the courtroom, but the pure white carnations were still in the centre of the Judge’s desk.
A newcomer among the women spectators had Miss Lizzie Borden pointed out to her, and at the first glance exclaimed, ‘Why, she is a lady.’ That was an interesting exclamation. The prisoner is far from good looking, so heavy is the lower half of the face. Yet there is about her that indefinable quality which we call ladyhood. She is said to be generally thought of throughout the country as a brawny, big, muscular, hard-faced, coarse-looking girl. She is, in fact, neither large nor small, nor tall nor short, but is of the average build, and in demeanor is quiet, modest, and well bred–from a country rather than a city point of view.
When the great medical expert and chemist, Prof. Wood of Harvard, went on the stand, Lizzie Borden’s interest in his testimony, bloody and hideous as it was, had no shadow of concealment. It amazed this semi-rustic girl to meet with a man who could extract eloquence from mute, insensate things. He had held converse with blood, had interviewed bones, had cross-examined half digested food in human stomachs, and was on speaking terms with infinitesmal specks of gore that had been spattered during the murders. She had seen the expert before at a previous trial, but it was evident that his species was strange and interesting to her, as it was to most persons in the room. The testimony might have seemed uncanny but that Prof. Wood was built like a heavy-weight pugilist and had an out-of-door, sun-tanned, vastly human countenance.
The handleless hatchet was conspicuous again to-day, and showed, as it did before, that the Government had first constructed its case with the clawhammer hatchet, and went into court with that theory. The examination freed the clawhammer hatchet from suspicion, and that hatchet was then abandoned, and the hoodoo hatchet was fixed upon as the guilty implement. This was shown yesterday by Dr. Dolan’s evidence, and confirmed to-day by Prof. Wood. It was a shocking, feverish day for the prisoner, and her antagonists got some comfort out of it. Her lawyers scored some good points for her, and the honors were even.
The singular pranks that the hoodoo hatchet played to-day took the form of making the Government’s own experts admit that certain features of the crimes suggested the sex of the murderer to be masculine rather than feminine; for instance. Mrs. Borden’s murderer stood astride her body while he dealt the eighteen blows that were rained on her head. Then, again, on both bodies the blows were struck right and left, as a woodchopper swings an axe. It has all along been argued by many persons that only a maniac committed the murders, and now that theory is amended to make the maniac a woodchopper. The Government will conclude its case tomorrow evening. The trial is fast drawing to a close. It cannot last beyond the middle of next week.
All Dr. Dolan’s testimony was to the effect that a sharp-edged hatchet had been used. He said he thought the handleless hatchet now has a sharp edge, so that in his opinion chopping two skulls to pieces did not dull the edge very much.
The woman’s body was taken up next and its eighteen wounds were described. Foreman Richards of the jury was used as a pillow and had a sham spread over him while the counterpane was spread over the jury rail. The blood spots on these things were again testified to and these two important questions were asked and answered:
“Where, in your opinion, did the assailant stand when Mrs. Borden was attacked?”
“Astride her body,” said Dr. Dolan.
“And the blows have a general left to right direction?”
“Though some were from right to left?”
The witness showed how the blows were dealt by taking a hatchet in his hand and whacking away at the head of the stenographer, who sat below him writing away for dear life and utterly unconscious of how the Doctor was swinging the hatchet around him. The cross-examination of the medical examiner went on as follows:
“Did you point out in the pocket of the prisoner’s blue dress a place that had the appearance of blood?”
“Now do you understand that it is not?”
“I haven’t heard.”
“Did you have her shoes and stockings?”
“Did you find blood on the soles?”
“You claim it was blood?”
“Not human blood.”
“I don’t ask you what kind.”
“I don’t know.”
“Did you see a pinhead spot of blood on her white skirt.”
“What about that?”
“It’s blood, whether human or not I don’t know.”
Prof. Wood next took up the claw-hammer hatchet with which it was at first supposed that Miss Borden slew her parents. He had subjected this to chemical and microscopic tests, but was unable to detect any blood on the handle or blade. He had the same luck with the two axes and the second hatchet. That shows why the Government set out to find a new weapon, and came across the hoodoo hatchet.
The Doctor took up Lizzie Borden’s blue dress skirt and said that it had a brownish smutch near the pocket. It did not resemble blood, but to make sure he tested it, and found it not to be blood.
He examined the prisoner’s low shoes and black stockings and found no blood on them. The hoodoo hatchet was his next test, and he repeated the time-worn evidence that both sides were uniformly rusty and covered with some fine dust like ashes. He found no blood. Think of it – no blood upon this hoodoo hatchet after all the fuss it has made!
Mr. Adams got back to that white skirt again with the pinhead spot of blood. He asked if the character of the blood was satisfactory for the determination that it was human blood, and the Professor’s answer was peculiar.
“If it is satisfactory at all, it is,” said he, an answer with which the prisoner’s lawyers were well satisfied.
Mr. Adams next asked a question which left the Professor free to say that the spot might have been Miss Borden’s blood, and he did say so. In all likelihood that is the last that will be heard of the only blood that was found upon anything belonging to the prisoner.
“Assuming that the assailant stood behind Mr. Borden,” said Mr. Adams to Prof. Wood, “have you formed any opinion whether he would be spattered with blood?”
“I don’t see how he could avoid being spattered from the waist up.”
“Assuming that the assailant stood astride Mrs. Borden as she lay with her face down, and taking into account the spatters you saw, have you formed an opinion whether the assailant would be spattered?”
“I don’t see how he could avoid being spattered from the lower portion of the body down.”
Dr. Frank W. Draper was called.
He is the professor of medical jurisprudence in the Harvard Medical School.
He assisted in the autopsy upon the Borden bodies. He took up the plaster casts and began to verify the marks that showed the wounds upon them.
Mr. Knowlton said that he was sorry that he was obliged to send for one of the skulls of the murdered couple, but he must do so. It was brought in and handed to the witness, Prof. Draper. It was Mr. Borden’s skull. It was done up in a white handkerchief, and looked like a bouquet, such as a man carries to his sweetheart.
The new expert said that the cutting edge of the weapon that made the wounds was 3 1/2 inches long. Asked if such blows could have been dealt by a woman of ordinary strength, he said, “Yes,” precisely as every Government witness has said who has been asked the question. Like Prof. Wood, he thought Mrs. Borden’s murderer stood astride and Mr. Borden’s assailant stood in front of his victim. As standing astride a body is not a feminine trick, the defence likes to dwell upon it.
Mr. Adams brought out a brand new hatchet of the same kind as the hoodoo hatchet. He asked the expert to fit it in the big wound. If it had fitted it would have been a great point for the defense. But it had not been ground as much as the hoodoo hatchet, and it wouldn’t go in. The hoodoo hatchet, by the way, fits the wound exactly.
The handle of the new hatchet is found to be twelve and a half inches long. It was taken for granted that the missing handle of the hoodoo hatchet was the same length. That would make the murderer stand close to his bloody work. The defence eagerly brought out that fact. Mr. Adams had the witness say that the murderer stood astride Mrs. Borden.
“Would not the assailant of necessity have been spattered with blood?”
“I should think so.”
“What part of the body would have been spattered?”
“The front part of the dress.”
“When you say dress,” said Mr. Adams, “you mean the clothing worn by both sexes?”
With the prisoner poorly in health and one witness recovering from a fainting fit with the help of a fan and frequent draughts of ice water, the day’s proceedings came to an end, none too soon.
(From The Lizzie Borden Sourcebook, pages 269 & 270.)