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Henry Colin Campbell Trial: 1929

Scathing Prosecution Attack

Prosecutor David wasn't convinced. As the precursor to a blistering crossexamination, he thrust two application forms for "friendship clubs" in front of the witness. Campbell cringed when he saw them. He had filled them out before meeting Mildred, and in one, under the heading "Disposition," he had answered, "The best ever if well treated," and on both he had described his health as "good." Hardly, sneered David, the responses of a man who was seriously ill. And what about his listed preference—"Widows with no children"—evidence, surely, of someone with an ulterior motive?

Campbell lowered his head and said nothing, utterly defeated.

In closing, David went over Campbell's original confession point by point, saying how it matched in every detail the known circumstances of the crime, and he implored the jury to set aside both sympathy and any scruples they might have against capital punishment. Campbell was a thrice-married rogue, he said, with a string of convictions for fraud and forgery that had led to numerous jail terms. In his opinion, the accused man's wife and three children would be "better off without him."

Justice Clarence E. Case, in his final charge to the jury, went to the question of insanity by saying:

If the defendant was conscious of the nature of his act he cannot be acquitted. The law does not recognize that form of insanity in which the faculties are so affected as to render a person suffering from it unable to control those urges … In medicine a man who steals and cannot control his stealing is called a kleptomaniac, in law he is regarded as a thief and punishable as such. If the accused sets up a defense of insanity the burden of proof lies with him; he must overcome the legal presumption of his sanity.

On June 13, 1929, the jury found Campbell guilty of first degree murder, with no recommendation for mercy, and he was sentenced to death.

In all probability Mildred Mowry was not Campbell's first victim. Just one year earlier, a New York governess named Margaret Brown had suddenly left her job to marry a mysterious "doctor" she had met through a matrimonial agency, taking with her $7,000 in savings. Her body, also shot and burned, was found just 15 miles away from the spot where Mildred Mowry met her death. While the similarities were marked, it proved impossible to fix the blame for that murder on Campbell. Not that it mattered. On April 17, 1930, the philandering "doctor" went on his final date—with the electric chair.

Colin Evans

Suggestions for Further Reading

Crimes and Punishment. Vol. 4. Paulton, England: BPC Publishing, 1974.

New York Times. See Mowry, Mildred, in the New York Times Index, April 10-June 19, 1929.

Wilson, Colin and Pitman, Patricia. Enyclopedia of Murder. New York: G. B. Putnam's Sons, 1961.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940Henry Colin Campbell Trial: 1929 - Fit To Plead, Scathing Prosecution Attack