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Lizzie Borden - Her Day In Court

abby murders defense testimony

Moody gave a persuasive opening argument. He emphasized the resentments inside the Borden home as well as the vast inheritance Lizzie and Emma stood to gain. He noted motive and opportunity and stressed the absence of forced entry or burglary in the tightly secured home. Moody questioned Lizzie's alibi of being alone in the barn for the crucial few minutes when Andrew was attacked.

The other suspects considered in the case had other people to verify their whereabouts. Since Abby had died more than an hour before Andrew, Lizzie's story about Abby's leaving and returning home seemed to be a blatant lie. The state's case was strengthened when it was discovered Lizzie had destroyed the dress she was wearing the day of the murders. She was seen burning the dress in the kitchen wood stove three days later, claiming it was covered with paint. Also, witnesses testified that the day before the murders Lizzie visited a drug store in Fall River, where she attempted to purchase a poison, prussic acid. She explained that she needed the acid to clean a sealskin cape. The druggist refused to sell the prussic acid. Dr. Bowen, who had been called to the house August 3, said Abby and Andrew complained of stomach sickness and Abby suggested they had been poisoned.

The defense team managed to get Lizzie's contradictory testimony to investigators excluded from the trial. Her attorneys pointed to a lack of blood evidence and to Lizzie's prominent position in the community. They also succeeded in excluding testimony that Lizzie had tried to purchase a deadly poison the day before the murders.

The defense was helped by contradictory testimony about the murder weapon, and the media continued its favorable press toward Lizzie. The defense and the media both stressed that a murder this brutal and violent could not have been done by a gentle lady such as Lizzie. One day in court even, during discussion of the brutality of the murders, Lizzie fainted—the defense said due to her frail nature. When the jury went to deliberations on June 20 little doubt existed as to what the outcome would be. Massachusetts law at the time said that premeditated murder was a capital offense, condemning the offender to the gallows for hanging. The jury met for one hour before returning with a not guilty verdict.

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