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Justice Served?

a 1920s murder trial, as seen through the eyes of a journalist

By Morgan Rhianna BlandPublished 3 months ago 10 min read
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Justice Served?
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

This is Laurel Ingram reporting the murder trial of the century. Poor Lilah Thorne, a beautiful actress, was cut down in her prime on what was supposed to be a fun night. The accused? None other than Miss Thorne’s costar and lover, Edward Mallory. It’s impossible to say which is the greater tragedy, the loss of such a young life or that of such a promising acting career.

Will Mallory fry for his crimes? Read this column every day throughout the trial to find out!

June 6, 1921 - Day 1

Throngs of people gathered outside a Manhattan courthouse, clamoring for a glimpse of Lilah Thorne’s killer. The crowd erupted in a chorus of boos and insults as the predator himself arrived. Edward Mallory, a tall dark-haired man in his late 30s, cut a dashing figure in his three-piece suit, but his polished outward appearance conceals a sinister underbelly. Mallory was oddly nonchalant for a man being tried for his life, even as the crowd heckled him. He declined to comment. Guilty conscience, or perhaps Mallory was too drunk to form coherent sentences?

The prosecution started with a strong opening statement. If anyone can take down a brute like Edward Mallory, it’s Rosalie Flynn. Miss Flynn has shown herself to be New York’s most courageous attorney since Katherine Stoneman herself. Never mind those one or two little incidents of manipulating testimony and bribing judges! She was the only one brave enough to do what it took to bring criminals to justice.

Flynn gave an impassioned plea, “Lilah Thorne was a good, smart, hard-working all-American girl. She clawed her way up from small town poverty to become one of the nation’s most talented young actresses. Her one mistake was tangling with the likes of him!” Flynn paused to give Mallory a scathing look. “A mistake which cost her her life. Edward Mallory preyed on Miss Thorne’s innocence and disposed of her when he was done. How many other young, sweet girls will he abuse if he goes free? Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you owe it to Miss Thorne to return a guilty verdict.”

Flynn’s words were met with sympathetic looks from the jury, with one woman even nodding emphatically. The reaction to defense attorney Henry Davis’s statement was lukewarm by comparison. “The prosecution would have you believe that Edward Mallory is the devil incarnate,” Davis began. “This is simply not the case. I intend to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr. Mallory is innocent of all charges, Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I implore you to think with your minds, not with your eyes.”

****************************

The prosecution called its first witness, city coroner Dr. Eugene Stacy. Stacy, a balding bespectacled man of about fifty, sat calmly while Flynn entered into evidence Exhibit A: Lilah Thorne’s autopsy photos. The photos showed a young, porcelain-faced brunette of 23, her beauty marred by bruises on her wrists and cuts all over her body. The photos drew gasps from the jury and even reduced one woman to tears.

Flynn: Dr. Stacy, how long have you been a coroner for the city?

Stacy: Going on 25 years.

Flynn: And did you perform the autopsy for Lilah Thorne?

Stacy: Yes.

Flynn: And what were your findings?

Stacy: Miss Thorne sustained bruises to her wrists and cuts throughout her body, There were small fragments of glass in her hair and on her person. Her injuries were consistent with a fall through a glass object, like a window or coffee table.

Flynn smiled smugly and entered into evidence Exhibits B and C. Exhibit B was the broken base of a lifesize glass sculpture of a woman found at Edward Mallory’s home. Exhibit C was a bag of bloody glass shards from the scene.

Flynn: Dr. Stacy, in your expert opinion, could a sculpture like this cause Miss Thorne’s injuries?

Stacy: I think so, yes.

Flynn: Now tell us more about the bruising on Miss Thorne’s wrists. Did that occur post- or antemortem?

Stacy: Antemortem.

Flynn: And do you believe a fall onto the glass sculpture could’ve caused such bruising?

Stacy: I doubt it.

Flynn: Why?

Stacy: The bruises were circular, going all the way around Miss Thorne’s wrist. The marks were consistent with a hand holding her wrists.

Flynn: Do you think a woman could’ve made those marks?

Stacy: No.

Flynn: Could a man Edward Mallory’s size have made those marks?

Stacy: Yes.

Flynn: So you believe Edward Mallory could’ve pushed Lilah Thorne into the sculpture?

Stacy: Not necessarily.

Flynn’s eyes flashed dangerously, showing a crack in her calm demeanor for the first time.

Flynn: Why not?

Stacy: There were other men at that party. Any of them could’ve pushed Miss Thorne, and I’m not 100% she was pushed at all. She might’ve fainted into the sculpture, as she was already dying before she fell.

****************************

A hush fell over the court as Flynn filed a motion to strike Dr. Stacy’s last comments from the record, a motion which the judge unwisely denied. With nothing further, Flynn gave way for Davis’s cross examination.

Davis: Dr. Stacy, you stated that Miss Thorne was already dying when she hit the sculpture. If the fall didn’t kill her, what, in your expert opinion, did?

Stacy: Miss Thorne had high levels of arsenic in her system.

Davis: And what are the symptoms of arsenic poisoning?

Stacy: Some of the more common ones are vomiting, diarrhea, headache, drowsiness, confusion, and convulsions.

Davis: Confusion and convulsions… Do you think it’s possible that Miss Thorne experienced these symptoms, and Mr. Mallory tried to help her? Could that have caused her bruising?

Stacy: I suppose it’s possible.

Davis: No further questions.

June 7, 1921 - Day 2

Laurel Ingram reporting on day 2 of the Edward Mallory trial. After a dramatic and disappointing first day for the prosecution, intrepid lawyer Rosalie Flynn came out swinging, Flynn’s first witness of the day was Miss Amy Hart, a zaftig woman with eyes as fiery as her hair. Miss Hart, clad in black, took the stand with a sidelong look at Mallory.

Flynn: Miss Hart, what is your relationship to Miss Thorne?

Hart: She was my best friend. We grew up in the same town, went to the same acting school. We even worked in the same theater.

Flynn: Thank you , Miss Hart. And where were you on the night of April 25, 1921?

Hart: I was at a birthday party at Mr. Mallory’s penthouse.

Flynn: Did Mr. Mallory invite you?

Hart took the opportunity to cast another pointed look at Mallory.

Hart: No, Miss Thorne did, Mr. Mallory doesn’t like me.

Flynn: And why is that?

Hart: Probably because I saw through him.

Flynn: What do you mean?

Hart: He tricked Lilah into a relationship. She told me all about it. She said he promised her an acting career if she went with him.

Davis chose this moment to so rudely object on grounds of hearsay, and the judge had the nerve to sustain it. Isn’t that just like men to stick together and silence the truth? Flynn soldiered on with her questions, undeterred.

Flynn: Miss Hart, going back to the night of the party, what time did you arrive?

Hart: Half past 7.

Flynn: And was Mr. Mallory there when you arrived?

Hart: Yes.

Flynn: Was Miss Thorne with him?

Hart: No, she arrived later.

Flynn: And how was Miss Thorne when she arrived?

Hart: She looked frazzled. Her hair and makeup were a mess. She kept slurring her words, and she was unsteady on her feet.

Flynn: Was this Miss Thorne’s usual demeanor?

Hart: No, not at all!

Flynn: Then what could’ve caused it?

Hart: I don’t know, probably the fight she and Mr. Mallory had the night before. She came to my apartment, crying about it. She said he wouldn’t lend her money she needed, so they argued and she said they were done.

Flynn: I see. So they broke up, yet Mr. Mallory didn’t uninvite Miss Thorne from the party the following evening?

Hart: He couldn’t . It was for his birthday; she planned the whole thing.

Flynn: Did Miss Thorne have any interaction with Mr. Mallory at the party?

Hart: Yes. Mr. Mallory noticed her erratic behavior and asked to speak with her. She followed him outside to the balcony. I heard loud, angry voices, but I couldn’t make out what they said.

Flynn frowned. Flynn: And how was Miss Thorne after that interaction?

Hart: Worse than ever. She went straight for the drinks. She got one for herself and tried to give one to Mr. Mallory to calm him down, but he wouldn’t take it. They argued some more until Lilah took his drink too.

Flynn: What happened to Miss Thorne after that?

Hart: I don’t know. I hardly saw her the rest of the night. She kept running to and from the washroom until about 11. When she came back, she was stumbling around, barely able to stand on her own. She kept mumbling nonsense. It was like she didn’t know where she was!

Flynn: Were you the only person to notice her erratic behavior?

Hart: No, Mr. Mallory noticed. He tried to send her home. They argued again, and… that’s when she fell into the glass sculpture,

****************************

Miss Hart’s comments were punctuated by wiping her eyes with a handkerchief. Flynn smiled triumphantly. “Ladies and gentlemen, there you have it. Edward Mallory laced Lilah Thorne’s drink with arsenic in a vindictive rage over their breakup the night before!”

Davis shook his head. “Not so fast. Miss Hart’s testimony proves that Miss Thorne ingested arsenic at the party, but it doesn’t prove that Mr. Mallory gave it to her. Miss Hart, you said Miss Thorne attempted to give Mr. Mallory a drink. Did she make the drink herself?

Hart: No, she got it from the bar.

Davis: The bar? So there was alcohol served at the party?

A murmur rippled through the courtroom, Miss Hart hesitated before answering, “Yes.”

Davis: Did you have any alcohol at the party?

Hart: No.

Davis: Did Mr. Mallory have any alcohol?

Hart: I don’t know. I didn’t see that he did.

Davis: And did Miss Thorne have any alcohol?

Hart: Yes, she was drinking all night.

Davis: Drinking all night…

Davis entered into evidence Exhibit D: two crystal rocks glasses.

Davis: Miss Hart, do you recognize these glasses?

Hart: Yes, they’re the glasses from the party.

Davis: And do these glasses look similar?

Hart: They’re identical.

Davis: They are identical. You can’t tell them apart, so if you can’t tell them apart, do you think Miss Thorne, in her inebriated state, could’ve told them apart?

Miss Hart turned pale, shaking her head. “No.”

Davis: No… so do you think it’s possible that Miss Thorne could’ve got the glasses confused and drank from the wrong one accidentally?

Hart: I-I suppose so, but why would she…?

Davis’s face betrayed not even the slightest hint of emotion as he faced the jury, “Lilah Thorne was delivering the poison to its intended target, Edward Mallory!”

****************************

Gasps and whispers rippled through the courtroom. The judge banged his gavel several times on the bench to demand quiet. With order restored, he dismissed the court for the day. So Day 2 of the Edward Mallory trial came to its dramatic conclusion.

What do you think, dear readers? Will the jury buy the preposterous claim that Mallory was the intended arsenic victim, or will they do their civic duty and bring the predator to justice once and for all? Find out tomorrow when trial coverage continues!

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About the Creator

Morgan Rhianna Bland

I'm an aroace brain AVM survivor from Tennessee. My illness left me unable to live a normal life with a normal job, so I write stories to earn money.

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