About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Comparing a Poor Woman with a Wealthy Young Woman Facing Murder Charges Early in the 20th Century

Carrie Davies
In my last post I wrote a review of The Massey Murder A
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.

Florence Kinrade
Carrie is questioned at length by the police immediately after the killing. She is given a standard warning about any statement being used against her but, in shock and with no experience with the law, seeks no legal assistance. She answers all the questions but the Police Sergeant in his haste to deal with the paper work of her arrest forgets to get her statement signed. She explains killing her employer, Bert Massey, because he tried to ruin her.

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.


  1. What an interesting comparison, Bill, between the way these two women were treated. I also find it interesting to consider how their being women played into the way they were treated, the strategies their attorneys used, and so on. The whole concept of how 'virtuous' people are treated by the court is fascinating, too. Whether a person is 'moral' or not really seems to play into how lawyers present their cases and how juries respond (the public, too, for cases that make news).

    1. Margot: Thanks for the comment. In real life, as in fiction, we want the "victims" to be "virtuous". In the stern morality of that time a woman's future was very much a matter of perception of her adherence to the often hypocritical morals of the time.

  2. Fascinating, and very perceptive. I love hearing your thoughts on legal proceedings, whether fictional or historical. I always learn something.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the comment. I appreciate your kind words. I find court cases endlessly fascinating.