« PreviousContinue »
der, for it would, with the other facts proved, be very strong evidence of a motive for the commission of the crime.
Supposing her to be an adulteress, or given up wholly to her infatuation, those facts which otherwise weigh little against her may have very great power. On the 16th of June, she was in the city with Mina, when he purchased the arsenic. They returned home, and on the next day Mr. Chapman was taken ill. On the 19th, when Dr. Phillips did not believe he was seriously ill, she wrote a note to Mr. Sheetz, the pastor of All Saints Church, requiring prayers to be put up for her husband, as if he was in extremity. On the same day, she calls Mr. Vandegrift to go to Mr. Chapman to receive directions that J. W. Chapman's family were not to be invited to his funeral. On the 19th, Dr. Phillips, believing Mr. Chapman's indisposition to be very slight, ordered chicken soup. This was made on Monday. Ann Bantom saw it made. It was taken by Mrs. Chapman into the parlor, where Mina
Here, it has been supposed that the poison was put into the bowl of soup—but that cannot be. It seems to be impossible that Mrs. Chapman should have put poison into this, to have poisoned her husband with it, and then have placed it on the kitchen table; and suffered it to remain there several hours, exposed to the chance of being eaten by her servants, who dined at the table; or by her own children, whose dining room adjoined the kitchen.
If Mr. Chapman was poisoned, as heretofore I have supposed, I look in vain for evidence to show distinctly how he was poisoned. Was the arsenic in the soup? He was taken much worse directly after he took it. If the poison was in it at all, it probably must have been in a portion taken from the bowl, but of this there is no evidence. If, however, the evidence is clear that he was poisoned, his being taken ill di. rectly after eating the soup is strong evidence of the time and manner. From this time his illness ran a rapid course. He suffered much and requested Fanning to stay with him. Mrs. C. did not go into his room but once during the evening, and, although much pressed by Fanning to do so, she refused to send for a physician.
If he were poisoned, the evidence is almost irresistible that the deed was done about the time he took the soup. Who could then have poisoned him? Had his wife a motive sufficient to move her to the commission of so terrible a crime, as well as what she might have deemed, a safe opportunity to perpetrate it? I have already adverted to the evidence which precedes his illness, and some facts of no little weight remain to be noticed, which occurred after his decease.
On the 5th of July, she is married to Mina in the city of New York. They separate on the same day. She goes to Schenectady, he to Andalusia. On the evening of that day she writes him a letter evincing all the extravagance, considering her age and his youth, of a most ridiculous passion. Now, when was the courtship of which this marriage was the result, ten days after her husband's death? Was it before his death or after it? In either case, what conclusion ought we to draw ?
On the 31st of July, she writes him another letter of a very different character. The same infatuation still seems to exist, but all levity is gone. Retribution for her folly or her crime has already overtaken her, and the deep feeling and, apparently deeper meaning with which, in the bitterness of her heart she says, “Believe me, Lino, that God will not suffer either you or me to be happy on this side of the grave,” as well as this whole letter is worthy of your most serious attention. It was written after she was fully apprized that Mina was a villain, and it was manifestly intended for no eye but his own. Take in connection with this letter the extraordinary and mysterious power that he exercised over her after it was sent, as proved by her declarations to Ann Smith. She, in the presence of her sister, charged him with some of his villainies, and declared her wish to be separated. He apparently consented, but required a secret conference before he went. She granted it to him, and notwithstanding the cruelties which he had practiced upon her and her daughters, so strongly complained of in the letter, notwithstanding she
must have known he was every way a villain, she returns to her sister and says, “Sister, Lino is not an impostor, he is a clever fellow.”
On the 17th of September, she herself laid before Mr. McIlvaine the most conclusive evidence that Mina was an impostor, and guilty of a forgery. On that same evening, a publication in the National Gazette, in Philadelphia, alluded to her as a participator in the crime of poisoning her husband.
On the 19th of September, she flies, notwithstanding she was warned by Mrs. Smith, the day before, that it would be evidence against her. Why did she fly? Was it to escape the punishment due to crime, or, as she alleges, the timidity of an innocent woman, who, perceiving that appearances were against her, had not resolution to face them? Of this, you are the judges. Flight may be very strong evidence of guilt, or it may weigh nothing, according to the circumstances under which it takes place. The legal presumption from flight is against the prisoner, and it lies upon her to rebut it.
Much evidence has been given in support of the prisoner's character. A number of very respectable witnesses have fully proved that, for a number of years, she was much respected, particularly by those whose children had been placed at her school. But all this is much weakened, if not wholly destroyed, by the evidence of Blayney, a high constable of Philadelphia, that from the year 1829, her character has been bad, gradually getting worse, and that his information is derived from the police of the city.
The evidence of the prisoner's daughter, Lucretia Chapman, has been relied upon, to show that there could have been no poison in the bowl of soup. Without her evidence, I think such would be the presumption, and she is of course strongly corroborated.
I now, gentlemen, leave this case with you for your decision. If you are satisfied that William Chapman was poisoned, and that his wife was the voluntary agent, or was present, aiding in poisoning him, the law draws the inference that she is guilty of murder in the first degree, and it is your duty so to pronounce. But, if you are not satisfied with the proof,
if upon the evidence a reasonable doubt exists, whether she be guilty or not, the law calls upon you to say not guilty.
At 9 o'clock on Saturday night, the jury retired, for final deliberation. At 11 o'clock, the ringing of the court bell announced that they had agreed upon their verdict, which was soon after rendered and recorded in open court of Not Guilty.
The Prisoner was then discharged by proclamation.
THE TRIAL OF CAROLINO DE MINA FOR THE
MURDER OF WILLIAM CHAPMAN,
Mina was tried for the murder of Mr. Chapman at the next term of the court. The evidence was nearly all a repetition of that given at Mrs. Chapman's trial. Ante, page 107. The question was raised as to the admissibility of the evidence of one of the servants, after the acquittal of Mrs. Chapman, who testified at her trial to her declarations. The Court decided that it should not be admitted. Some evidence was put in concerning experiments made by the chemists since Mrs. Chapman's trial and. Dr. Mitchell was more positive than on the first trial of the presence of arsenic in the deceased man's stomach and he testified that if confined to one single test to detect the presence of arsenic, he would prefer the odor.
There was one witness, however, whose testimony was given for the first time-Officer Blayney of Philadelphia. He proved that when in his charge being taken from Boston (where he was arrested) to Philadelphia, Mina was seized with one of his fits. A physician who was on the boat could not explain it. Afterwards Mina persisted, against the officer's objection, in making a statement to him. He said he and Mrs. Chapman had had unlawful relations before the husband's death and that after that Mr. Chapman was taken ill; that when the woman brought up the bowl of soup he saw Mrs. Chapman "put physic in it. She take it from my bottles. After Mr. Chapman take the soup he take very bad and die. Mrs. Chapman then come kiss and hug me and say, 'Lino, I want you to marry me'-I say 'no' not till I ask my father.