Friday, October 31, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Borden case featured skull, medical testimony

By
From page A1 | July 04, 2013 |

Editor’s note: This is the fourth of six parts of “Lizzie Borden: Enduring Mystery,” which draws on a number of sources, including some material kept by one of Borden’s attorneys, Andrew Jennings. This marks the 120th anniversary of the homicide.

During the second week of the Lizzie Borden murder trial, in June 1893, surgeon William A. Dolan presented a grisly item to the jurors – a plaster cast of the battered skull of Andrew Borden, Lizzie’s father.

The plaster skull had gaping holes representing those made by the killer’s weapon, a hatchet. For days, prosecutors had carefully built a case against the Sunday school teacher. Lizzie, they said, murdered her father and her stepmother, Abby, on Aug. 4, 1892.

The jurors gazed at the replica of the skull. Spectators in New Bedford Superior Court “craned their necks . . . to view ‘the grinning object,’ ” The Providence Journal reported.

But not Lizzie.

With the permission of the court, she was allowed to leave the room before Dolan, holding the plaster skull, testified that the killer struck Andrew Borden in the head 10 times.

The hatchet blows crushed his skull. One strike split his left eye in half and cut through his cheek bone, leaving a 4½-inch wound.

Lizzie listened to the testimony from a side room.

With all she “has endured, it was an act of mercy to allow her retirement from the courtroom while this ghastly relic of her parent was handed about, while experts were fitting hatchet blades into its parts,” The Journal said.

Dolan testified on two days – June 12 and 13. Other medical experts took the stand after him.

Unlike earlier witnesses – including the police who sought to pin the murders on Lizzie – the medical experts presented evidence based “purely on scientific knowledge,” The Providence Journal reported. Dolan, a Fall River, Mass., doctor and medical examiner for Bristol County, explained to jurors how and when the Bordens died. He said he looked at the bodies of Andrew and Abby Borden several times on the day of the murders.

Andrew lay on a sofa in the sitting room near the front door. According to Dolan, his wounds were still fresh. His hand was warm, and his blood, still oozing from the wounds in his head, was bright red, Dolan said. Blood dripped onto the carpet.

The murdered man – wearing a woolen jacket, black vest, black trousers and a pair of Congress shoes – had a gold ring on his left hand, a pocket watch in his vest and a pocketbook holding $81.65 in bills and change.

Upstairs, in the guest room, Dolan examined Abby Borden’s body, slumped between the dresser and the bed, her back exposed. The upper part of her dress was bloody, he said. But her body was much colder than Andrew’s, and her blood was dark and had coagulated, he said.

After the victims were photographed, Dolan undressed the bodies and placed them on an undertaker’s board. He then removed their stomachs and sealed them in jars. He also took samples of the milk delivered to the Bordens’ house.

(The night before the murders, Lizzie told a friend she thought the family may have been poisoned.)

Dolan sent the milk and stomachs to Prof. Edward S. Wood at the Harvard Medical School.

Using a magnifying glass, Dolan also examined several hatchets and axes found in the cellar of the home. The possible murder weapons had been moved to the city marshal’s office. Dolan said he found two hairs on the blade and wood of one of the hatchets. There were also spots on the tools that looked like blood or rust. The evidence was delivered to Wood at Harvard.

But Dolan wasn’t finished with the bodies.

Two days after the crime, mourners attended a funeral service for the Bordens in their home and at Oak Grove Cemetery. But the Bordens weren’t buried afterward. They were moved, instead, to a nearby holding tomb.

On Aug. 11 – five days after the funeral – Dolan and several other doctors conducted a second, more thorough, autopsy on the bodies inside the Ladies Comfort Station near the cemetery entrance.

Their organs were healthy, he said. It was clear the victims died from multiple blows to their heads. The force crushed the skulls of both Bordens, he said.

Based on the contents of the organs of the victims, and the differences in their body temperatures and blood, Dolan told the jury that Abby was killed first and her husband was killed an hour or more later.

At one point, prosecutor Hosea M. Knowlton asked Dolan if he thought a woman of ordinary strength could have inflicted the wounds that killed Andrew Borden.

“Yes, sir,” Dolan said.

Dolan’s testimony helped solidify the state’s case against Lizzie.

But Wood, the Harvard professor, did not help the state’s case.

The Harvard Medical School graduate said he tested several possible murder weapons – a claw hammer hatchet and two axes – but found no blood on any of them.

Wood said he found only one hair in the evidence envelope sent by the police. The hair came from an animal, possibly a cow, he said.

He also said he found no blood on Lizzie’s clothing, other than a small spot – about the size of the head of a pin – on her white skirt.

Lizzie, who returned to the courtroom after Dolan’s testimony, left the room again when Frank W. Draper took the stand.

Draper, a Boston doctor and medical examiner, helped Dolan with the Borden autopsies at Oak Grove Cemetery.

According to Draper, Abby Borden’s assailant stood over her. Andrew Borden’s killer, he said, stood behind him while he lay on the sofa.

The killer, he said, would have gotten blood on his or her face, hair, hands and body.

The failure to identify a specific murder weapon wasn’t the only setback for the prosecution.

At the beginning of the second week, the three judges overseeing the trial excluded Lizzie’s 1892 inquest testimony on the grounds that her statements were involuntary. Prosecutors hoped to use the record to reveal Lizzie’s earlier contradictory accounts of where she was the morning of the murders.

But defense attorney George D. Robinson successfully argued that for several days Lizzie had been placed under house arrest and denied a lawyer. “If that is freedom, God save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts!” Robinson said.

The judges also ruled the prosecution could not introduce the testimony of Fall River druggist Eli Bence.

Bence, who worked at a South Main Street store, took the witness stand but was asked to step down.

Bence was prepared to testify that on Aug. 3, the day before her parents were murdered, Lizzie tried to buy prussic acid, a deadly poison. Lizzie said she needed the acid to clean a seal-skin cape. Bence said he could not sell the acid to her without a doctor’s note.

Robinson argued that the testimony was not pertinent to the crimes for which Lizzie was charged. The actions to be described by Bence were “not sufficiently near” in time to the murders and so were not relevant, he said. Even if allowed, the evidence would not prove that Lizzie had killed her father and stepmother with a hatchet, he argued.

FRIDAY: Closing arguments, then the verdict.

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Daily Republic does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

.

Solano News

Real estate agent pens, produces movie

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1, 2 Comments

 
 
Neighborhood candy hunts of the past

By Tony Wade | From Page: A2

 
Vintage Fair on tap at McBride Senior Center

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: A3

 
Candy from sky highlights North Texas Street event

By Ryan McCarthy | From Page: A3 | Gallery

 
Fairfield police log: Oct. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12

Suisun City police log: Oct. 29, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A12, 1 Comment

 
.

US / World

California eyes $500 billion in water spending

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1, 2 Comments

 
Judge approves Stockton’s bankruptcy plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A1

Marine wants new charges in Iraq war crime tossed

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 3 Comments

 
Roseville officer accused of criminal threats

By The Associated Press | From Page: A3, 1 Comment

Poll: Democrats leading in all statewide races

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 4 Comments

 
Man charged with murder in SWAT officer shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Teen arrested in threat at Sacramento school

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 1 Comment

 
Police make arrest in slaying of Oakland mom

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

Retrial in assault case over stray cat feeding

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 8 Comments

 
Missing California hunter roasted bugs, lizards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

Pilot identified in California jet crash

By The Associated Press | From Page: A4

 
Lawsuit: Surgical gowns let diseases pass through

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Fearing Ebola? Doctors say get a flu shot

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Questions, answers about California’s Ebola policy

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

Maine in standoff with nurse over Ebola safeguards

By The Associated Press | From Page: A5

 
Relatives suspected poisoning in family’s deaths

By The Associated Press | From Page: A6

Pair convicted in secret $1.6 M Navy silencer deal

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

 
Guard troops sent to site of Hawaii lava flow

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Terminally ill woman may postpone taking her life

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7, 2 Comments

 
Man’s own dog helps police bust him on drug charge

By The Associated Press | From Page: A7

Israel closes Jerusalem holy site after shooting

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10

 
Fearing uprising, Iraq militants hunt ex-police

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

Vatican admits Sistine Chapel frescoes ‘whitened’

By The Associated Press | From Page: A10 | Gallery

 
Death penalty sought for trooper ambush suspect

By The Associated Press | From Page: A12

.

Opinion

 
Editorial Cartoons: Oct. 31, 2014

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A11

 
 
Man’s prosecution unwarranted

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 9 Comments

Are we safe now?

By Letter to the Editor | From Page: A11, 20 Comments

 
.

Living

Community Calendar: Oct. 31, 2014

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A2

 
Today in History: Oct. 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

My husband sends texts filled with ‘dirty talk’ to an old flame

By Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar | From Page: A9

 
Horoscopes: Oct. 31, 2014

By Holiday Mathis | From Page: A9

.

Entertainment

Jorge Garcia makes the most of ‘Hawaii Five-O’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B1, 1 Comment

 
Week in preview Oct. 31-Nov. 6, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B1

Monica Potter wants to save her show ‘Parenthood’

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
Review: Jake Gyllenhaal, tightly coiled and creepy

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Exhibit on Paul Simon’s life to debut at Rock Hall

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
PBS touts 2013-14 ratings growth

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

Reality TV show ‘Big Brother’ to debut in China

By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

 
‘The View’ now under ABC News as further revamping

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

Review: ‘Sleep’ a decidedly average psych thriller

By The Associated Press | From Page: B3

 
Entertainment calendar Oct. 31, 2014

By Amy Maginnis-Honey | From Page: B4

Winter’s wife has blues listening to his new album

By The Associated Press | From Page: B5

 
Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell dies

By The Associated Press | From Page: B6

TVGrid

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: B6

 
.

Sports

 
 
Benicia fends off Vanden, 35-21

By Nick DeCicco | From Page: B7 | Gallery

New dynasty: Giants capture 3rd title in 5 years

By The Associated Press | From Page: B7 | Gallery

 
Sonoma Raceway to host IndyCar Series finale in 2015

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

Warriors exercise options on Barnes, Ezeli

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
Mack making impact for Raiders even without sacks

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

Bye week helps 49ers Vernon Davis’ recovery

By The Associated Press | From Page: B8

 
This date in sports history for Friday, Oct. 31, 2014

By The Associated Press | From Page: B9

 
Prep football capsules: Week 9

By Paul Farmer | From Page: B10

.

Business

Not so sweet: Chocolate prices are set to rise

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment | Gallery

 
Apple CEO publicly acknowledges that he’s gay

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11, 1 Comment | Gallery

FTC accuses Gerber of false claim on baby formula

By The Associated Press | From Page: B11

 
.

Obituaries

Robert Louis Wright

By Nancy Green | From Page: A4

 
Oscar Lee Vezeau

By Susan Hiland | From Page: A4

.

Comics

Peanuts

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Baby Blues

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Baldo

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Blondie

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Zits

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Dilbert

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Frank and Ernest

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Sally Forth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

B.C.

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
For Better or Worse

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Pickles

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Garfield

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Beetle Bailey

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Wizard of Id

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Rose is Rose

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

 
Get Fuzzy

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A8

Bridge

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Sudoku

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

Crossword

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9

 
Word Sleuth

By Daily Republic Syndicated Content | From Page: A9