Saturday, September 10, 2011

Chivalry Justice in 1934

NOTE: Despite the optimistic claims in this article that the problem of “chivalry justice” had been eradicated by 1934, primarily due to the states’ having begun to carry out more executions of women, there are abundant examples of the practice (sometimes called the “female sentencing discount”) in subsequent years, and it continues today.

FULL TEXT: Femininity bubbling over with sex appeal no longer “gets away with murder”!

Pretty faces no longer moan anything to murder juries. Facts, not feminine charm,
now influence their minds. Long sentences and death penalties are given to the fair sex with as much cold-blooded deliberation as they are meted out to defendants of the male persuasion.

This is as true of juries comprised solely or men as it is of those composed partly of women.

The beauty and childish charm of Norma Brighton Millen, daughter of a clergyman, could not save her from conviction for complicity in the murders and robberies of her husband, Murton Millen, condemned to death at Dedham, Mass., for the killing of two policemen and the robbery of a bank.

Neither her extreme youth — she is only 19 — nor her beauty, which is outstanding, touched the emotions of the twelve men who heard her testimony.

There was a time, not many years ago, when Norma’s tearful story related on the stand would have moved any American jury to return her to freedom, amid the cheers of the onlookers

But no more. Women must remain sinless in the eyes of the world or suffer the consequences.

Norma’s naivete and her tearful, dejected appearance made little impression on the twelve good men and true who held her fate in their hands. They believed her guilty of a crime and issued their verdict according to their consciences, rather than according to their emotions.

California, heretofore lenient to its murderesses, recently convicted Mrs. Nellie Madison and sentenced her to hang for the slaying of her husband, Eric, a film studio auditor.

Her beauty and the pleas of her first husband, William A. Brown, a wealthy attorney, whom she divorced after only four years of married life, mattered not to the Court. She was given the maximum penalty by Superior Judge Charles W. Fricke, who denied her pleas for a new trial and who told the jury that he “could find no mitigating circumstances” in her case.

If she dies by the noose, she will be the first woman to be hanged in California.

THE comely and renowned woman physician, Dr. Sarah Ruth Dean, similarly received in recent months what a Mississippi trial jury, also composed entirely of men, considered her just deserts.

Her reputation in the medical field and her physical charm got her exactly nowhere when she was tried for the murder of her admirer, Dr John Preston Kennedy.

An interesting battle ensued between the State and her defense, but the State won, and now the eminent woman doctor is under sentence lo spend the remainder of her life at hard labor.

Throughout the ordeal she maintained a cold dignity and flatly denied her guilt. But the Slate based its case on the deathbed statement of the deceased physician that “Ruth and I had a whisky highball and immediately recognized the taste of mercury.”

Dr. Kennedy, it was brought out, attempted to treat himself for five days without mentioning the matter to any one, but he grew worse steadily. On the fifth day, when he collapsed while performing an operation, he called other doctors and told them of his illness and what he believed had caused it.

The verdict, representing a rejection of the woman physician’s sworn testimony that she did not poison Kennedy came after thirteen hours and fifty-two minutes of deliberation.

The juryman who handed in the verdict said the jury “had to accept” the dying man’s statement in which Dr. Kennedy charged Ruth Dean with poisoning him, and “that a man dying would not make such a false declaration against a woman.”

No consideration was given by these twelve men to the fact that the defendant was a woman—a handsome woman of culture and refinement, with a reputation extending far and wide in the medical field.

To her jury she was a murderess, and as such she must bear the consequences. And thus another woman of charm and beauty was given a severe sentence by twelve men.

FEMININITY and motherhood left another jury unmoved when Mrs. Anna Antonio, mother of three small children, was sentenced to die for the murder of her husband in a small town near Albany, N. Y., only a short time US.

Shortly after, Antonio’s body, torn by bullets and stabbed repeatedly was found face down in the mud near his farm, his widow and two men suspected of being her accomplices were arrested and brought to trial.

It was claimed by the State that the young mother had promised to pay Vincent Saetta and Samuel Feraci $800 for killing her husband. Greed for his $5000 life insurance was given as the motive for the death plot.

The young and diminutive woman was given the same sentence as the male codefendants—death by electrocution.

Her sex did not move the jury one degree toward leniency.

But on the eve of the scheduled execution, just as the death march was about to begin, Saetta caused a halt in the proceedings by announcing to the Warden of the jail that “Mrs. Antonio is absolutely innocent of the murder of her husband.”

Winnie Ruth Judd, the attractive young woman convicted of slaying her two girl chums, was sentenced to hang by a jury of men at Phoenix, Ariz. An expensive assortment of chic clothes purchased for her trial seems to have von no admiring glances from the jury box, nor did her appealing baby-blue eyes thaw their hearts.

Her dainty figure and feminine charm caused no hesitation among these jurors as to a verdict. Death by hanging was their decision. Little did it matter whether or not she was a beauty justice must be given!

While awaiting execution, Mrs. Judd became insane and was committed to an asylum. If and when she regains her sanity, she may hang for her crime.

THE good looks of John Dillinger’s moll, Evelyn Frechette, could not save her from a two-year sentence for harboring her lover, America’s Public Enemy No. 1.

She did only what “The Girl of the Golden West” was glorified for doing for her highwayman lover in fiction. But American juries no longer take any more stock in the glorification of the adventuress of this class than in the glorification of male bandits.

And so for her imprudence pretty Evelyn is to stay behind iron bars during the next two years.

No prettier woman than Ruth Snyder ever stood before the bar of justice on trial for her life. But, although she utilized every trick known to her sex to influence the jury, she went to the electric chair.

Mad infatuation and greed for $97,000 culminated in the planning and execution of this—probably the most celebrated love-triangle murder in the criminal annals of the United States.

Ruth Snyder estimated that with her husband out of the way, life would be more alluring. He was a domestic, quiet man who liked to stay home every night and read. He was seriously interested in his work as editor of an art magazine, Ruth was a butterfly. Her home and 9-year-old little daughter did not occupy her entire thoughts. She wanted love, life, gaiety. Her husband was not sufficiently affectionate to give her the thrills she craved. She sought, excitement elsewhere and found her mate in Henry Judd Gray, also married and the father of a child.

Secret meetings ensued. Affection deepened into wild love. With $97,000 to spend and freedom lo meet her lover at will, life without her husband looked rosy to the attractive wife of the art editor.

So she planned to murder him. Seven of her eight attempts were frustrated. Twice she disconnected the gas while her husband slept and then slipped out of the room, shutting the door behind her. He awakened both times and saved himself from asphyxiation. Another time she closed the garage doors on him while the motor of their automobile running and nearly killed him by carbon monoxide poisoning. Twice she doped his whisky with bichloride of mercury, but he detected it because of the bitter flavor. Twice she substituted powerful narcotics for medicine which he was taking and thus made him deathly sick, but he recovered.

On her seventh failure, she went in desperation to her lover and demanded his help.

And so in the early morning of March 20,1927, the eighth attempt of Ruth Snyder to snuff out the unwelcome life of her husband was carried out.

BUT Ruth’s life was not so rosy thereafter as she had anticipated.

Within a few hours after the murder, the lovers were arrested and brought to trial.

Her feminine charm upon which she had always depended to gain her every desire failed her in this, her most crucial moment. Despite her attractive mourning attire and her efforts to dominate the jurors—-all men—by her strong personality and handsome appearance, these twelve men, small-town merchants and clerks, were unmoved by her magnetism and the eloquent outbursts of her attorneys.

Her own belief that “they will never send a woman to the death house in this State” proved a fallacy.

Jealousy is not a sufficient excuse for murder. Beauty cannot gain absolution for capital crimes!

Such was the tacit reply of the eight women and four men, who in 1922, tried Mrs. Clara Phillips for the murder of Alberta Meadows.

In a jealous rage over Alberta, whom she had accused of trying to steal her husband. Mrs. Phillips viciously neat her rival to death with a hammer

And despite her youth and appealing smiles, she paid for her crime by spending twelve dreary years in a prison cell. During her trial she used every feminine wile known to the fair sex to win her freedom—but to no avail

But she was convicted despite the pleas of her attorney that she was a “moron,” “subject to epileptic convulsions,’ and “had the mentality of a child.”

A come-hither look in the eye of a fair defendant no longer spells freedom for her.

[Francine Markel, “Beauty Doesn’t Count In Court - Jurors Are No Longer Swayed by Pulchritude When Women Face Murder Charges—Facts Alone Determine Fates of Defendants,” Oakland Tribune (Ca.), Aug. 12, 1934, Magazine Section, p. 6]


For more on this topic, see Chivalry Justice Checklist & Links


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