March 22, 2017

Lizzie Borden got a bad rap

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century
by Sarah Miller

Lizzie Borden was presumed guilty almost immediately. It didn't help that she had no alibi and the police allowed her to be alone. It gave her time to change her dress. 

This and other incriminating details are meticulously covered in Sarah Miller's compulsively-readable novel. She lays out each piece of evidence in linear fashion and examines them from all angles, forming a fair and balanced analysis that will leave readers guessing. Her account of police, coroner, and legal proceedings are delivered in casual, direct prose without being overly sensationalized. She also does a good job of capturing the tenor of the time. For in 1892, police investigations were not at their best. The autopsies of Borden's father and stepmother were not done until five days after their murders. Tunnel vision meant the police spent too much time examining the wrong weapon. The hatchet they had confiscated bore no trace of blood or human hair. Meanwhile, the real weapon was discovered during the trial, but went missing and is still missing today. Add in the rampant gossip and speculation, and it's no wonder that fact and fiction became blurred. With no real evidence, the jury came up with the only possible verdict: not guilty.

Lizzie Borden was acquitted, but the damage was done. Her reputation was forever ruined. Total exoneration was never forthcoming because, in a strange twist, the police closed the case and never bothered to investigate further. 

Did Lizzie Borden get away with murder? We may never know.

A true-crime story that is highly recommended.

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