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More Legal Drama

If you missed the FX show The People v. O. J. Simpson, you can still catch the 8 episodes on demand. Because of its viewing success, it shouldn’t surprise you that Hollywood is now racing to copy this success.

NBC is currently planning a series that is based on the Menendez brothers. Erik and Lyle Menendez were tried and convicted in 1989 for murdering their parents. They are both currently serving life sentences.

CBS is working on a series about the unsolved killing of JonBenet Ramsay. She was the 6-year-old who was killed in her Colorado home in 1996. You may remember that her mom was considered a suspect and that both parents were greatly criticized for all that beauty pageant contestant footage.

The series is expected to feature investigators from the original investigation to discuss the possible suspects, as well as experts to comment on the original findings and discuss the evidence in the case. A Whodunit.

The common theme to this new genre of TV series is murder. I guess  a series on cupcake sales just doesn’t get the viewers.

And since the weekend is not just another day… here’s some music humor for our pic o’ weekend:

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Ghost Evidence

Doing a story on the Greenbrier Ghost seemed liked an appropriate start to this weekend! Sadly that tells you that there is a  scary ending instead of a happy ending of Zona Heaster Shue. But it does include the courtroom. (Wikipedia)

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Edward Stribbling Trout Shue (In all stories, maybe we shouldn’t ever trust a 4-name person ) was a drifter who came to the County of Greenbrier looking for work. Soon he was working as a blacksmith. Not long after his arrival to town, he met Zona. They fell in love and were married… despite the objection of Zona’s mother, who had taken an instant dislike to this man.

The couple lived peacefully until January 23, 1897. That’s when 21-year-old Zona Heaster Shue was found dead in her living room.  Local physician, Dr. George Knapp, examined the body and determined that Mrs. Shue’s death was due to an “everlasting faint.” Her body had been found by a young boy who had come to the home on an errand. She was found lying at the foot of the stairs, stretched out with her feet together and her hand on her stomach. She looked “comfortably dead”.

The doctor was summoned; But before he arrived, her husband had moved her body to the upstairs bedroom and placed her on the bed. He then prepared the body for burial, normally a job for the women of the community, by washing the corpse and then dressing her in a high-necked dress with a stiff collar and then placed a veil over her face.

When the doctor did arrive, he only did a cursory examination of the body because Shue was cradling his wife’s head and sobbing. The doctor noticed but did not follow up on the bruising that appeared to be around her neck.

The doctor later amended his findings to include  that the death included “and childbirth.” Her husband of 3 months kept an amazing vigil over her body and would let no one near the coffin.  At the funeral, locals later testified that they noticed that her neck did not look normal against the pillow in the casket.The matter was “laid to rest” when Zona was buried.

According to  Zona’s mother; four weeks after the burial, she woke up in the middle of the night to a chilly room and found her deceased daughter standing at her bedside. “Her daughter” then told her over the course of 4 nights,  “I was murdered, Momma—Trout strangled me!” She went on to describe that he had gone into a fit of rage over her not cooking meat for dinner, and he then choked her so hard that it caused her neck to break.

The  mother was so convinced that this was not a dream that she went to the local sheriff and begged him to investigate her daughter’s death as a murder by Trout Shue. The sheriff reluctantly agreed, and Zona’s body was exhumed.

Zona’s body showed that she had a crushed windpipe and a broken neck. Trout Shue was charged with murder.

At the trial, the judge was determined to keep out any evidence of the “ghost story”. The prosecutor was determined to just stick to the evidence. Despite the judge’s attempts. the mother discussed her “daughter’s visits”.

It became clear that the jury believed the mother. Trout was convicted by the jury, and sentenced to life in prison. When the story of that trial is told, it is also concluded that Trout Shue was the only known case in the U.S. where a ghost’s testimony allegedly helped to reopen an investigation, and then identify and convict a murderer.

Have a great weekend and be safe out there!

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Mystery of the Axman of New Orleans

It’s still considered unsolved.  From May 1918 until October 1919, New Orleans residents lived in fear as a serial killer brutally murdered at least 8 people and may have attacked more. The victims included women and children.

In most instances, the back door of a home was smashed, followed by an attack on the residents of the home who were either killed with an axe or a straight razor.

Nothing was stolen from the homes and the only possible motive was that many of the victims were Italian descent. Reporters of the day began referring to the killer as the Axman of New Orleans.

On March 13, 1919, a typed letter that was supposedly sent to the newspaper from  the Axman was published to advise that he would kill again at 15 minutes past midnight on March 19. However, he advised that he would spare the occupants of any household where a jazz band was playing.

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Once the letter was published in the newspaper, people rounded up every instrument in town, parties were planned and dance halls were filled to capacity. All professional and amateur bands were hired and played jazz at parties in hundreds of households throughout the city. Sure enough, the city awoke to learn that no murders had been committed that night.

The last attack occurred in August of that year. The Axman was never caught and brought to justice. Speculation was rampant that he had something to do with jazz and that he was a respectable citizen with an alter ego like a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde type.

Wikipedia lists the victims and also suggests why the killings may have stopped including the fact that perhaps the husband of the last victim exacted revenge by ultimately killing the serial killer.

One of the tunes that likely was performed on that fateful jazz night was The Mysterious Axman’s Jazz (Don’t Scare Me Papa) by local musician Joseph John Davilla.

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The sheet music for that song became a “best seller” and still remains on display in a New Orleans museum.

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The Axman’s letter stated that They have never caught me and they never will. His letter turned out to contain that truth.

 

 

The Massie Trial in Hawaii

This is the story of a historical trial that took place in Honolulu, Hawaii. According to Wikipedia, it was known as the Massie Trial or also the Massie Affair. It first began with a rape trial that then led to the Massie murder trial.

Thalia Fortescue, had come from a “well-to do” family and married a rising United States Navy officer named Thomas Massie. They attended a party in September 1931. There, Thalia Massey, apparently got drunk, got in a fight which resulted in her slapping an officer at the party. Then, she raced out the door and home alone.

Later that night, reportedly her officer/husband, Lieutenant Massie, found her at home where she made the claim that she had been raped by several Hawaiians. When she described the event later to police, she described her attackers simply as “locals”.

In short, several charges were brought based on some questionable evidence, including the fact that the police told her several pieces of critical evidence because she could not provide even basic identification of some of the defendants, and even a purported license plate number which she originally did not know. A fabrication of evidence was later suggested.

Eventually these defendants were brought to trial on the rape charges. This, despite her questionable testimony that did not hold well under cross examination.

The jury  included two Chinese and two Japanese jurors. Closing arguments in the trial were made on December 1, 1931.

Throughout the trial, the newspapers had been rife with rumors of Thalia having an affair with another officer before all these events. In addition, it was speculated that she originally had never in fact been raped. Instead, the claim was that it was her own husband who had come home and beaten her up and broken her jaw.

Compounding all this, her well-to-do mother arrived to support her daughter. Practically, she was really there to conduct a public relations campaign to salvage the family name.

After ninety seven hours of deliberations the jury announced that they could not reach a decision. They were deadlocked at six to six. The jury was dismissed without a conviction.

Racial tensions were high after the hung jury.  Across the island, there were fights between whites and non-whites.

Her officer/husband, Tommie Massie, was afraid that a second trial might also fail to bring a conviction. He conceived a plot  to obtain a confession.

He and three others kidnaped one of the defendants, a local well-known boxer named Joe Kahahawai. He was the darkest-skinned of all the original defendants who had been found not guilty in the original trial. These white men held him at gun point with the intent of forcing him to confess to the rape,.

When he would not confess to the rape, they beat him and then one of them shot him, in a fit of rage. They then wrapped his body in a sheet with the intent of dumping the body in a desolate place.

A police motorcyclist saw their car and thought that it looked suspicious. He pulled them over and discovered the body. All four were then arrested for murder.

Now, racial tensions were even worse because the killing was seen by the locals as a lynching. Conversely, the white community was in sympathy with Masssie and his friends.

A grand jury indicted all four. Famed defense lawyer, Clarence Darrow, who was seventy- five-years old and in retirement, decided to come out of retirement to defend the four.

He was promised a fee of $40,000; a very substantial amount of money in those days. He was assisted in the defense by attorney George Leisure, who arrived by ship on March 24, 1932. They were met by crowds of people, reporters and curious onlookers, at the Honolulu dock. This was a front-page case in Hawaii.

The trial began on April 4th in a packed courtroom. Throughout the trial, Thalia Massie attempted to portray herself as having no knowledge of the events or anything that her husband might have done.

However, the prosecution managed to prey on her feeling of superiority above the islanders; which led to her losing her temper, and ripping up a piece of evidence, and storming from the witness stand.  On that, the prosecution rested.

Defendant Thomas Massie was Darrow’s first witness. His defense was temporary insanity. Darrow called two psychiatrists to testify that the defendant had been temporarily insane at the time of the killing. He also called Thalia Massie who testified about the original alleged rape.

Darrow’s final argument was  carried live on local radio. He argued that the mental suffering of the rape and hung jury had driven the defendants to do what they had done. He occasionally wiped away tears while emphasizing the “black gates of prison” that they would face if convicted.

He argued all morning and into the afternoon. In his conclusion, he praised Hawaii as a “kindly and dispositioned people” and ended his closing with,  “I ask you to be kind, understanding, considerate – both to the living and the dead.”

The jury began deliberations on April 27th. After 47 hours,  their verdict for each defendant: “Guilty of manslaughter. Leniency recommended.”

Again, racial tensions were high. Martial Law was considered.

Hawaii Governor Lawrence Judd received a call from the President of the United States, Herbert Hoover, who urged that they be spared jail time. The governor agreed. He commuted their original 10-year sentence “to one hour, to be served in the custody of the sheriff.”

Wikipedia concludes with the following:

After a flurry of diplomatic maneuvering between Washington, D.C. and Honolulu, martial law was avoided. Instead, under pressure from the Navy, Territorial Governor Lawrence M. Judd commuted the 10-year sentences of the convicted killers to one hour, to be served in his office. Days later the entire group, including the Massies, the two other Navy men, Fortescue and Darrow, boarded a ship and left the island in turmoil. Thalia and Massie divorced in 1934; she committed suicide in 1963; he died in 1987.

Like an ending to a movie… In 1966, Albert O. Jones admitted that he was the one who had actually shot Joeseph Kahahawai.

Even though the blog is so long, I still include pic o’. This has its own curious bumper sticker evidence!

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O.J. or a Serial Killer

I started out with the intent of blogging on gratitude and thanks. Then, I got sidetracked by Wednesday night TV listings.

The TV channel “Investigation Discovery” will be airing a documentary on the killing of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman. The documentary identifies Glen Rogers as their possible killer. That got my attention!

The documentary relies on interviews with family members, including Rogers’ brother, who first turned Glen Rogers in to the police after finding a rotting corpse in the family’s Minnesota cabin.

He has been convicted of two murders and is currently on death row in Florida. While there, he has confessed to having killed more than 70. Based on his own confession, his family believes that he also killed Simpson and Goldman.

In 1994, months before the two were killed, Glen Rogers was working in Los Angeles as a house painter. At that time, he reportedly was working for and partying with Nicole Brown Simpson. He told his family  about working for Simpson, that she was rich and that he was “going to take her down”.

Rogers later was charged  and convicted of the other two killings. According to the press release from the documentary,  after that he confessed to criminal profiler, Anthony Meoli, that he had murdered Simpson and Goldman and he provided detailed accounts of their slayings. According to the show, his own family cannot believe the depth of his evil.  The confession provides another unexpected suspect.

For Pic o’ day, this one gets me everytime!

Impact of Beauty on Evidence

A recent study(PDF) published in the “European Journal of Psychology Applied to Legal Context” (I know, that is quite the title) and reported in the “Atlantic“, concludes that being beautiful makes it more difficult for a domestic violence trial.

Researchers at the University of Grenada (Spain) started with the premise that “attractive people are often perceived as having positive personality features and attributes”.  That leads to the perceived belief that “beauty is goodness”.

The researchers decided to test the effect of beauty on believability. They created fictitious scenarios in which a woman was accused of killing her partner/ husband. In all cases,  the story included that she had been a victim of domestic violence for a long period of time; and then, had finally killed her husband/partner in self-defense. In the fact pattern, the only difference in the narratives was the description of the accused woman.

In one of the narratives, the woman was described as “Maria is an unattractive woman with thin lips; stern and jarring facial features; dark,  bundled hair; and is neither slender nor elegant in appearance”.

In another narrative, “Maria is a 36-year-old housewife with two children (six and three years old) who has been married for 10 years. Maria wears sunglasses that hide her face, has poor personal appearance and dress, and is timid in answering the judge or lawyers’ questions”.

In the third narrative submitted to the test subjects of this research, “Maria is a financial consultant of a leading company; she has no children, and has been married for ten years. Maria is a well-dressed fashion-conscious woman, calm and resolute in her interactions with the judge and lawyers”.

The researchers had 169 police officers from the Spanish State Security Forces read one version of the story and then give their opinion. The officers were 153 men and 16 women.

In the study and based on the responses referenced in the attached PDF, “unattractive women defendants were attributed with less criminal responsibility”. The researchers ultimately concluded that  “the attractiveness of a battered woman accused of murdering her husband is inconsistent with the prototype of a battered woman.”

These officers concluded subconsciously that a husband/partner would not be guilty of domestic violence when the woman is beautiful. The researchers arrived at the conclusion that being beautiful was not helpful when presenting evidence of domestic violence.

For pic o’ day,  everyone pays attention to something:

 

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