Trial Testimonies Compared

Lizzie and the Ironing Board
Alice Russell and Fleet
Morse and Doherty
Who Let Morse In?


Lizzie and the Ironing Board

We’ll try an experiment with “dueling testimonies” and focus on just one incident that actually happened and is not in dispute — that Lizzie got the small ironing board out and put it on the dining room table —

BUT WHEN? Let’s compare statements:

Lizzie — Inquest, p. 59-60 & 62 – Questioned by Knowlton.

Bridget — Trial testimony – Lizzie Borden Quarterly., Jan.2001, p. 15-16. Questioned by Moody.

Lizzie at the Inquest:

Q: Tell me again what time you came downstairs.
A: It was alittle before nine, I should say about quarter; I don’t know sure.
Q: Did your father go down town?
A: He went down later.
Q: What time did he start away?
A: I don’t know.
Q: What were you doing when he started away?
A: I was in the dining room I think; yes, I had just commenced, I think, to iron . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Q: About what time do you think your father went down town?
A: I don’t know; it must have been after nine o’clock. I don’t know what time it was . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Q: When your father went away, you were ironing then?
A: I had not commenced, but I was getting the little ironing board and the flannel . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

A: Yes, I said that, and then I said I did not know whether I was on the stairs or in the kitchen.
Q: Now how will you have it?
A: I think, as nearly as I know, I think I was in the kitchen.
Q: How long was your father gone?
A: I don’t know, sir; not very long.
Q: An hour?
A: I should not think so.
Q: Will you give me the best story you can, so far as your recollection serves you, of your time while he was gone?
A: I sprinkled my handkerchiefs, and got my ironing board and took them in the dining room. I took the ironing board in the dining room and left the handkerchiefs in the kitchen on the table and whether I ate any cookies or not I don’t remember. Then I sat down looking at the magazine, waiting for the flats to heat. Then I went in the sitting room and got the Providence Journal, and took that into the kitchen. I don’t recollect of doing anything else.

Bridget at the Trial:

Q: After you had let Mr. Borden in, where did you go?
A: I went on washing my window.
Q: Into the sitting-room again?
A: Yes sir . . .

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Q: And what stairs did he go up?
A: The back stairs.
Q: What is the next thing that you did?
A: Well, as Mr. Borden come down stairs, I was completed in the sitting-room, and taking my water and taking my hand basin and step ladder into the dining-room. As I got in there he pulled a rocking chair and sat down in the rocking chair near the window and let down the window, as I left it up when I got through.
Q: Sat in a rocking chair in which room?
A: The sitting-room.
Q: As he sat down in the sitting-room, what did you begin to do?
A: I began to wash the dining room windows.
Q: At the time that he came down and you were passing from the sitting -room to the dining-room, was Miss Lizzie Borden there then?
A: I don’t remember to see her.
Q: You began washing your two windows in the dining-room, did you?
A: Yes sir.
Q: While you were washing those windows did anyone appear in the dining-room?
A: Yes sir.
Q: Who was it?
A: Miss Lizzie.
Q: From what room did she appear? Through what door did she appear?
A: She came in from the sitting-room into the dining-room.
Q: Will you state what she did after she came in?
A: She came into the dining-room, went out in the kitchen and took an ironing board and placed it on the dining-room table and commenced to iron.
Q: You in the meantime washing the windows?
A: I was washing the last window in the dining-room.
Lizzie and the Ironing Board © 2001 Kat Koorey

Alice Russell and Fleet

On the question of Lizzie’s bedroom, Alice Russell’s testimony doesn’t jibe”with what the police recount — so what is really going on?

FLEET “made another search” upstairs “again.” Dr. Bowen was with Lizzie in her room, and they didn’t want Fleet to enter — a search would make her “sick.” Bowen finally let Fleet in, and this exchange took place: (Fleet speaking)

“. . . asked her where the key was to this door. She says ‘that is father’s room.’ She says ‘you cannot get in at the door. It is always locked.’ I says ‘I should like to get in there some way or another.’ She says ‘the only way to get in is by going around the back stairs and going in that way.’ I found the door was locked, so I took her word for it, and went out.” (Preliminary Hearing, p. 358-359)

Ask Alice what SHE remembers:

“I remember being up in Mr. and Mrs. Borden’s rooms with some officer, I remember their asking me about the rooms that went out of it. The door into Miss Lizzie’s room was hooked. They pulled the screw out, I judged. I remember I asked them to let me look in first; I did not know what the condition of the room was. I pulled the portiere (curtain) aside, and looked in, and said it is all right, and they went in. I do not recollect whether I went in or not”. . . .”there were 3 “(policemen).

She could not say if one was Doherty. She thought they were making the “first search” and that Lizzie went upstairs “about the same time” as she (Alice) was going around with the officers and into the parlor. “I do recollect one of the officers.” FLEET? “I think so.” (Preliminary Hearing, p. 259)

Alice Russell and Fleet © 2001 Kat Koorey

Morse and Doherty

Patrick Doherty, upon first visiting the guest room, where Mrs. Borden’s body lay, had moved the bed “away from her head” to make the space wider. He then went to telephone the station, and when he returned spoke to Bridget a few minutes in the kitchen. He then went upstairs, returning to the guest room, and implies Dr. Dolan was also in the room.

“I saw Mr. Morse in the room when I got back from the telephone, when I was looking at Mrs. Borden’s body. He stood in the room with his hand on the foot of the bed.” (Preliminary Hearing, p. 330 – 332).

Morse’s testimony:

11:50 a.m.

“I went part way up the stairs. I did not go into the room at all, looked under the bed, and saw Mrs. Borden lying there”. . .”They told me” she was up there.

Morse then saw Lizzie (implies in the kitchen), then he went outside for “3 or 4 hours.” (Preliminary Hearing, p. 245, 254).


11:32 a.m.
Doherty first heard of the event. Walked “as far as the post office, and I ran.”

Approximate arrival, Doherty.

11:35- 11:50
Takes in situation.

Talks to Dr. Bowen.

Looks at Andrew’s body.

Goes up stairs to look at Abby’s body.

Moves bed.

Examines Abby.

Talks to Dr. Bowen.

Goes down stairs and takes 30 second run to Gorman’s to telephone the Marshal.

Talks to Marshal.

30 second run back to house.

Speaks to Bridget.

Returns up stairs to guest room.

There is Morse (and possibly Dr. Dolan-who can’t recall), at 11:50 a.m. when Morse says he went up stairs. (Preliminary Hearing, p. 329-332).

Morse and Doherty © 2001 Kat Koorey

Who Let Morse In?

In the Inquest testimony, there are three different versions, by three different people, as to who let Morse into the house upon his return after the murders and whether there was a crowd outside at that time or not.

Mrs. Churchill (p. 130-131) says

lots of people outside
Morse came in steps from yard not from street side
doesn’t mention Sawyer by the door
says she let Morse in and spoke to him first.
“I says ‘Mr. Morse, something terrible has happened, somebody has killed both Mr. and Mrs. Borden.’ He says ‘what’, and hollered ‘Lizzie’, as loud as he could holler, and rushed into the dining room. Alice Russell heard him and I think let him in [to the dining room], and he went into the sitting room and the door was closed between the sitting room and the kitchen”

SAWYER (p. 138-139)

Morse came in from gate [at front of house]
says there was quite a crowd there
says Morse was not eating a pear
Q: What did he do when you told him?
A: ‘My God,” he says, “what kind of God have we got that will permit a deed like this to be done?” Something like that.
Q: What did he do then?
A: He stood there a few minutes and finally went inside of the door.
Q: Whether he had been in before or not, you don’t know?
A: No sir, he had not been in at that door before; that was the first time I had seen him.
Q: You had been near the door all the time?
A: Yes sir, from the time I went there with Officer Allen, I should judge that might have been a little after eleven.

MORSE (p. 104-105)

says no people or crowd “to attract his attention” in the street
no mention of Churchill at all, says he saw Sawyer “by the door”
Q: When was the first you heard that Mr. Borden was killed?
A: When I went into the door. I went around, before I went into the house, to a pear tree to get a couple of pears. When I came back, the servant girl met me at the door, and asked if I had heard the news. I said no. She said Mr. and Mrs. Borden were both murdered. A man named Sawyer stood there at the time.

So who is lying and who is telling the truth and who is merely mistaken for whatever reason?

Who Let Morse In? © 2001 Stefani Koorey

Lizzie’s Dress


The following includes references as to what witnesses thought Lizzie wore that forenoon, from the testimony of Mrs. Churchil, Alice Russell, Dr. Bowen, and Bridget at the Inquest and the Preliminary Hearing of Lizzie Andrew Borden. There is no reference to what Lizzie wore in the Witness Statements.


Lizzie Borden, p. 90:

Q: What dress did you wear the day they were killed?
A: I had on a navy blue, sort of a Bengaline silk skirt with a navy blue blouse. In the afternoon, they thought I had better change it. I put on a pink wrapper.
Q: Did you change your clothing before the afternoon?
A: No sir.
Q: You dressed in the morning as you have described and kept that clothing on until afternoon?
A: Yes sir.


Q: Was the dress that was given to the officers the same dress that you wore that morning?
A: Yes sir.
Q: The India silk?
A: No sir. It is not an India silk. It is silk and linen. Some call it Bengaline silk.
Q: Something like that dress there? (Indicating a dress made of Pongee).
A: No, it was not like that.

Mrs. Churchill, p. 132-133 (questioned by Knowlton):

Q: What dress did she have on?
A: She had on a blue and white calico. Blue and white with a deeper navy blue diamond on it; of a deeper shade of blue, this diamond was, as near as I can tell it; I am not observing of clothes.
Q: That is the pattern of the cloth?
A: Yes Sir, the diamond was printed on it.
Q: Did she have on an apron?
A: I dont think she did, but I cant tell you certain.
Q: Are you sure it was calico?
A: No, it might be gingham; it is cotton goods I think.
Q: It could not have been india silk, or anything of that pattern?
A: No, I dont think it was; it was calico or gingham I think. I do not think she would wear an india silk in the morning, unless she was going out.
Q: Do you think you would know the dress if you saw it again?
A: I think I should, I never saw it near to, though, until that day.
Q: You have described it as fully as you can?
A: Yes Sir.
Q: Was it all one piece, like the dress you have on now?
A: It was a looser waist, more like a blouse waist.
Q: All one kind of cloth, as you are now?
A: Yes Sir.
Q: Not as she (reporter) is, but all one kind?
A: Yes Sir.


Q: You are pretty sure, Mrs. Churchill, that, as you remember it, the waist was the same kind of stuff as the skirt?
A: I am. I told you I am not observing as a great many.
Q: You took it to be the same?
A: I did.
Q: Not different kind of cloth of a similar color?
A: No Sir.
Q: You say the waist was something of the blouse order?
A: Loose.
Q: Belted in?
A: I cannot tell you how it was made. I know it hung loose here, because I know Miss Russell thought she would open it to give Lizzie a better chance to breathe. Lizzie says, “My clothes are loose.”
Q: Did you not notice then the dress was the same kind as the skirt?
A: I saw the waist had spots on it of the dark blue. I had seen it before at a distance when she came to the door, from my window. It was navy blue, with a darker shade blue and white, a diamond printed on the cloth.

Alice Russell, p. 154 (asked by Knowlton):

Q: What sort of a dress was it Miss Lizzie had on before she changed it?
A: I don’t know. I have not any idea.

Dr. Bowen, p. 120-121 (asked by Knowlton):

Q: Do you recollect how Lizzie was dressed that morning?
A: It is pretty hard work for me. Probably if I could see a dress something like it, I could guess, but I could not describe. It was sort of a drab, or not much color to it to attract my attention, sort of a morning, calico dress I should judge.
Q: Did she change her dress?
A: She changed her dress sometime in the course of two or three hours. I noticed she had on a wrapper I think afterwards. She did not do that until she went up into her room to stay.

Bridget – Testimony does not survive.

Harrington – only sees her after she’s changed in to “pink wrapper” in her room.


Mrs. Churchill, p. 279 (questioned by Knowlton):

Q: Do you remember how Lizzie was dressed when she was standing there?
A: I think she had a cotton dress on, calico.
Q: Can you describe it any better than that?
A: I think the color was blue, blue and white.
Q: And the figure?
A: There was a figure on it, the shape of a diamond, it looked to be, of a darker shade of blue, navy blue, printed on it.
Q: Any other figure, stripe, or spot, or anything of that sort?
A: I do not remember.
Q: Do you remember whether it was all one kind of cloth, that is the upper and the lower part?
A: I thought it was.
Q: What sort of a waist was it?
A: I do not know.

Alice Russell, p. 290:

Q: Do you remember how Lizzie was dressed?
A: No sir.

Mrs. Dr. Bowen, p. 479-480:

Q: How about her clothing, any spots of blood on it?
A: I saw none.
Q: What dress did she have on?
A: A blouse waist of blue material, with a white spray, I should say, running through it.
Q: A white spray?
A: I thought it was.
Q: What was the body of the dress?
A:I did not notice particularly.
Q: The ground of the blouse, you say it had a white spray?
A: O, it was blue.
Q: Light or dark blue?
A: I should say quite a dark shade; I cannot tell; I was not looking for fashions then.
Q: Do you know what skirt she had on?
A: I do not. It was nothing more than an ordinary morning dress; I think I had seen her wear it before. I only noticed the dress skirt.
Q: Something you had seen her wear frequently before?
A: Yes sir.
Q: In the morning, or when?
A: In the morning when I have been in.

Bridget Sullivan, p. 31:

Q: Do you remember what she had on that morning?
A: No sir.
Q: You have no idea at all?
A: No sir.
Q: You could not tell whether she had a dress and waist of the same kind, or different?
A: No sir, nothing about it.
Q: Could you tell whether she had an apron on?
A: I could not tell whether she did or not.

Lizzie’s Dress © 2001 Kat Koorey