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William Lancaster Trial: 1932

Forged Letters

Indeed, they were. For by Lancaster's own admission, the notes were forgeries. Asleep in the same room as Clarke, he claimed he had been jolted awake by a gunshot to find Clarke bleeding in bed. Instead of immediately aiding the injured man, he had dashed off the notes in an attempt to convince Miller that he had played no part in this tragedy.

This was a damaging confession, but did it amount to evidence of murder? To illuminate some of the murkier corners in this story, Hawthorne called Chubbie Miller as a court witness, which allowed him the option of crossexamination if necessary

A volley of photographers' flash bulbs greeted Miller as she took the stand. Although she had fallen out of love with Lancaster, she now seemed determined to stand by him in his hour of greatest adversity. This had been made easier for her by a number of damning revelations about Clarke, in particular his admission to her that he was suffering from a venereal disease. Miller lowered her head as she spoke,"[I told him] there would be no marriage until he was cured."

She described her own misery at the situation they had created. "We were lying on the [chaise] longue … I said I wished I could put an end to it all. Haden answered that he felt the same." Within two hours he was dead.

As the reporters scribbled gleefully, Miller disclosed ever more intimate details of drunkenness and sexual intrigue at the house. She spared no one, least of all herself. It was a brave act of loyalty at huge personal cost.

Among a welter of confusing testimony from various forensic experts, the testimony of Albert H. Hamilton, a controversial criminologist with a long and checkered history, shone beacon bright. His chief asset was his forthrightness. Shades of gray simply vanished whenever Hamilton took the witness stand. Here, having examined the bullet wound, he issued his verdict: "Absolutely suicide. There is not a scintilla of evidence to support a theory of homicide or murder… I found nothing to support anything but suicide. I say this not as an opinion, but actual knowledge."

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1918 to 1940William Lancaster Trial: 1932 - Forged Letters, Confident Defendant