Maid, Her Master and the Trial That Shocked a Country by Charlotte Gray. I partly read the book to see how a young servant woman, Carrie Davies, was dealt with by the judicial system of early 20th Century Ontario in contrast to the treatment of Florence Kinrade, a wealthy young woman, investigated for the killing of her sister in Hamilton six years earlier. I wrote about the Kinrade case in reviews of Florence Kinrade - Lizzie Borden of the North by Frank Jones. As this post will reveal the verdict in Carrie’s case readers wishing to find out from the book what happened had best read no further.
In the Kinrade case when Ethel is killed at home Florence and Ethel are the only family members present. Florence maintains a tramp entered their home and shot Ethel.
In contrast to Carrie’s treatment, Florence’s initial interview with the police is cut short by her father, Tom Kinrade, a distinguished educator in Hamilton who simply insisted to the police she has had enough for the day.
In Carrie’s case the coroner’s inquest could have gone badly for Carrie but for the interventions of two lawyers at that critical moment. Facing a coroner anxious to proceed with the inquest the day after the murder a non-criminal lawyer, Henry Wilberforce Maw, retained by her brother-in-law, Ed Fairchild, sought to obtain disclosure of the Crown case before Carrie would have to respond. With the coroner clearly unwilling to wait the scales tip in favour of adjournment Ontario’s Attorney General, in a remarkable intervention asks the coroner to grant the adjournment because:
“It seems to me a breach of the fundamental ideas of British Fair Play when a girl is not given an opportunity to instruct counsel …. The woman is young. She has not many friends in this country. Counsel has not been properly instructed by her.”
The adjournment was granted. When the inquest resumed Carrie had capable defence counsel in Hartley Dewart, K.C.
Carrie’s unsigned statement was read at the inquest. It indicated her employer had kissed her twice the day before against her will and at the time of shooting “I seemed to lose control of myself”. (She was to add more to her story at trial.)
In Florence’s case the coroner’s inquest was the pivotal court proceeding.
With the initial investigation badly handled a prominent Toronto lawyer, George Tate Blackstock, K.C., was retained by the Crown to handle the inquest.
He aggressively questioned Florence over three long sessions. With the aid of her own skilled lawyer Florence was well prepared for the questioning. Blackstock draws forth details of her secret life as a vaudeville performer in Virginia under the name of Mildred Dale. He elicits her relationship with a fellow performer though she is engaged to a Methodist student minister in Hamilton. He gains acknowledgement of contradictions in her statements and shows the implausibility of her story. What he cannot get is any admission of wrongdoing.
With Carrie acknowledging the shooting of Bert Massey the case is bound for trial though the Massey family provided particulars of her alleged instability a year earlier. Her counsel rejected the clumsy attempt to have Carrie considered insane and the scandal covered up.
The case against Florence collapsed with her denials. The Crown had suspicions, strong suspicions, but a lack of evidence.
Defence counsel providing details to a trusted discreet reporter is not a recent contemporary approach. Cassie’s counsel made sure the Toronto Evening Telegram had all the information needed for sympathetic coverage.
There was considerable public sympathy for Florence, this well bred young woman recounting an attack by a tramp. The Hamilton Spectator spoke of the “tramp menace” to the community.
In my previous post I recounted the powerful closing address of Dewart. The Crown should have objected and the trial judge should have interrupted Dewart’s theatrical address to the jury. His blatant appeal to the emotions of the jury went well beyond the bounds of comment upon the evidence. Yet neither prosecutor nor judge raised their voices. For the prosecutor to have objected was a grave risk he would be considered to be challenging Carrie’s honour.
In his own closing the prosecutor, Edward Du Vernet, expressing personal sympathy for Carrie, tries to rehabilitate the victim asserting Massey was not a “worthless brute” but a defenceless man walking up the steps of his home. He states Massey was not engaged in an attack upon Carrie. He asserts she has no remorse for her actions.
The trial judge, Chief Justice Sir William Mulock, described Carrie as a “refined girl” who
“Left alone with her thoughts, Mulock continued, “she brooded over the events of the day before, which she regarded as a terrible distress to her, added to, perhaps, by her idea of the fidelity she owed to her lover.”
He was clearly indicating to the jury, despite his pronouncements on what constitutes murder and manslaughter and excusable homicide where his sympathies lay in the case.
It is no surprise that the jury took but a half an hour in deliberation to find Carrie not guilty.
In both cases the defendants benefited from being young women of virtue. While Florence’s virtue was a touch tarnished by performing in vaudeville she was still a well respected member of a prominent family. It was clear the jury saw themselves as Carrie’s protectors. Her counsel had gone so far as to prove, through medical evidence. she was a virgin.