The case of Lizzie Bordon is one of the most infamous in criminal history having spawned songs, plays and a range of publications. It also ranks as one of the most puzzling. Having been acquitted of the axe murders of both her parents, Borden then simply returned home and carried on as before only to be roundly ostracised by the stoutly religious local community. Prosecutors never charged anyone else with the crimes leaving the case naggingly unsolved. Here, author Ronald Bartle revisits the events which occurred in Fall River, Massachussets in 1892. He explains how her answers to police questions were at times strange and contradictory and her accounts to them often bizarre. With so many pointers to her involvement the trial has been compared to that of O J Simpson in the modern day. It is immortalised in legal and other folklore as well as in the children’s rhyme:
Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.
A refreshing account of a very famous case. Contains legal and other analysis. A fly-on-the-wall view of the nineteenth century USA justice system. A true story that reads like a thriller.
From the text
”The essence of the prosecution case in the Borden trial is simply: If Lizzie didn’t do it who else could have done? But when that is the proposition before a jury trying a defendant who enjoys from start to finish the presumption of innocence that is not enough… There is a difference between feeling certain that the defendant is guilty—and the sufficiency of the evidence to prove it. The method of criminal trial in Anglo-American jurisprudence is weighted in favour of the defendant…But as a system of justice it is, like democracy, though imperfect, better than all the others.”
Ronald Bartle was Deputy Chief Stipendiary Magistrate (now District Judge) for Inner London. His books include The Telephone Murder: The Mysterious Death of Julia Wallace (2012); The Police Witness: A Guide to Presenting Evidence in Court (1984 onwards), Three Cases that Shook the Law (2016) and Bow Street Beak (Waterside Press edition 2016).