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Lizzie Borden - A Good Daughter

moody massachusetts murder court

Within a week it became evident that Lizzie Borden was a suspect in the murder of her father and stepmother. An inquest was held in which Lizzie contradicted herself and other The couch where Andrew Borden was found murdered on August 4, 1892, displayed at the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast in Massachusetts. In a nationally sensational trial, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the murder of both her father and stepmother. (AP/Wide World Photos)
witnesses repeatedly. The town began to gossip about the family's problems, which were confirmed by a statement from Andrew's sister and brother-in-law, the Harringtons. They said money was a key issue of bitterness within the family. They believed intense jealousy was created when the usually stingy Andrew Borden gave gifts of property to Abby's family.

Lizzie was arrested on August 11 and entered a plea of not guilty the next day. When a preliminary hearing was held on August 22 the judge ruled probable cause existed to try Lizzie for murder. In November her case went before the Bristol County grand jury (a panel of citizens who determine if enough evidence exists to warrant a trial), who voted to indict (formally charge a person suspected of committing a crime) and Lizzie was formally charged with murder on December 2, 1892.

William H. Moody


William H. Moody (1853–1917) graduated from Harvard College in 1876 and was admitted to the Massachusetts bar in 1878. He practiced law in Haverhill, Massachusetts, and soon became interested in politics. Moody was appointed U.S. district attorney for the state's Eastern District in 1890. This led to his being a part of the team prosecuting the high profile Lizzie Borden murder case in 1893. Although Borden was acquitted, Moody's courtroom skills were recognized by leading Republicans of the day. He eventually served in Congress and the cabinet before being elevated to the U.S. Supreme Court as an associate justice.

President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919; served 1901–09) named Moody secretary of the navy in 1902. In this position he was responsible for the build up and readiness of the naval fleet. In 1904 Moody was appointed U.S. attorney general, where he became one of Roosevelt's closest advisors on domestic issues.

William H. Moody. (The Library of Congress)


In 1906 Roosevelt nominated Moody to the Supreme Court of the United States, and Moody was sworn in on December 17, 1906. He developed a crippling form of rheumatism (disease affecting muscles, nerves, and joints) and was forced to retire from the Court four years later after a full life of public service.

The Borden trial was the media sensation of the year when it began June 5, 1893, at the New Bedford Court House in Massachusetts. Newspaper coverage surpassed that given to the Chicago World's Fair, which was going on at the same time. Most newspapers thought Lizzie was innocent and they publicly condemned the judicial system for putting her through such an ordeal after suffering such a personal loss.

The town of Fall River, however, was divided. Those in Lizzie's social circle defended her innocence while many in the working class were convinced of her guilt. George D. Robinson, a popular former Massachusetts governor who had served three terms in the state capital, headed Lizzie's defense team. The prosecutorial team was impressive and included the district attorney for the state's Eastern District, William H. Moody (see sidebar).

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