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David Marshall Trial: 1926

Cigars And Hilarity

To nullify the claim of police brutality, the prosecution produced Rodney W. Shaver, one of the detectives who had interviewed Marshall. He denied emphatically that the defendant had been abused while in custody and raised hoots of laughter with his comment that the defendant "was treated better than we were. He got cigars and we didn't!"

Gradually the trial developed into a fierce battle between the various expert witnesses. For the prosecution, Dr. Clarke Stull, who conducted the autopsy, would not be deflected from his belief that Anna May Dietrich had been strangled, while defense witness Dr. Henry Cattell maintained that there was nothing in the autopsy results inconsistent with Marshall's version of events. Had Miss Dietrich been strangled, Cattell said, then marks should have been left on her neck; he could find none. Nor did he rule out Marshall's claim that the victim had taken poison.

In rebuttal, the state called Dr. J. Atlee Dean, a chemist and bacteriologist who had examined organ tissue from the dead woman. He testified that there was nothing to suggest any hint of poisoning.

On March 24, after five hours behind locked doors, the jury signaled that their labors were complete by bursting into an impromptu chorus of "Show Me the Way to Go Home." They convicted Marshall of second-degree murder and he was sentenced to a minimum of 10 years imprisonment.

It later emerged that several jurors were initially inclined to convict Marshall of first degree murder, only to be swayed by those who felt that, as an admitted adulteress, Anna Dietrich had in some way contributed to her own demise. Marshall's infidelity was, apparently, overlooked.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Grex, Leo. Stranger than Fiction Detection. London: Robert Hale, 1977.

New York Times. See Dietrich, Anna May, in the New, York Times Index, January 22-March 25, 1926.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940David Marshall Trial: 1926 - Double Confession, Cigars And Hilarity