Before Catherine Rosier’s Trial
Catherine is in Moyamemsing Prison waiting for her trial. ADA Maurice Speiser is the prosecutor. Catherine’s attorneys were John R.K. Scott and William Connor.
Catherine through her attorneys applied for a writ of habeas corpus before Judge Charles Brown in a fight for custody of Oscar Jr. Her attorneys also filed a caveat against Oscar Sr.’s death bed will in both Philadelphia and Delaware counties. The point of this is for Catherine to gain control of the Rosier Advertising Agency, her home and the funds in the estate.
In an ironic twist, because of Catherine’s testimony at the inquest, the restaurant where Catherine and Arthur had lunch was raided and 200 gallons of wine confiscated. The agents entered the restaurant and sat at different tables, they ordered “pots of wine” as the restaurant served the wine in teapots. As soon as they were served the wine, they approached the manager of the restaurant and started reading a search warrant. When the customers heard this, they began leaving the restaurant until it was empty except for the employees.
On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17, 1922, Rosier Advertising Agency declares bankruptcy. Assets are estimated at $5,000 and liabilities at $15,000. Creditors decided instead of the expense of a receiver appointed and paid, that they would divide the assets up on a pro rata basis.
An auction took place at Rosier Advertisement Agency. The big news was that the blood-stained couch sold for $2.50. The auction at the offices was crowded with curious people wanting to see where the shooting had happened. The auction only raised $642.35 with everything selling for about 25 cents on the dollar. The type writer that Jerry Reckitts used sold for the most money. It sold for $53.00!
Catherine’s trial is delayed again because of the illness of co-counsel William Connor. Judge Davis reluctantly granted the continuance to April 24, 1922.
Catherine Rosier’s trial is postponed again for the third time. The first time so John Scott could prepare the case, the second because Connor was ill, and this time because Scott had another case and would have to withdraw which would be an even longer delay. Oddly enough seven women were on the jury panel for this trial.
Catherine has been in prison for six months. She complains of a hacking cough that she fears is tuberculosis. She has also lost significant weight, she weighed 100 pounds when she was arrested and now, six months later she weighs 88 pounds.
Finally, a trial date set for October 18, 1922. Catherine has been in prison at this point for 8 months.
Catherine Rosier’s Trial – Day 1
Finally, Catherine gets her day in court! Dressed in somber black from hat to shoes, after nine months in prison she looks nothing like the pictures of her before the murder, no round rosy cheeks, no wide smile, no sparkling eyes, just a pale wan and painfully thin vision. Catherine could have her baby in court, but she couldn’t hold him.
The courtroom was completely full with every seat full and people standing in the back and in the aisles.
The trial started with an argument between John R.K. Scott, Catherine’s chief attorney and Maurice Speiser, the prosecutor, elected to try Catherine on just the killing of Mildred Jerry Reckitts. John R.K. Scott strongly opposed this, however Judge Norris S. Barrett agreed with the prosecutor.
Then began the choosing of a jury. One of the main questions asked the jurors, besides whether they believed in the death penalty was, “If you are selected as a juror, and if the defense attempts to prove the moral law was violated by the defendant’s husband, and if his Honor charges that the law of Pennsylvania does not recognize such a violation as justification for a homicide, would you follow the instructions of the court and bring in a verdict for the defendant?” Maurice Speiser the ADA was trying to see which jurors believed in the Unwritten Law.
Before the first juror was sworn in twelve men and one woman were challenged by one side or the other and let go. Speiser brought up the Unwritten Law in his questioning. Although the Unwritten Law was going to be the basis for Scott’s defense it is not a legal defense. Catherine was pleading Not Guilty by reason of Emotional Insanity.
Margaret Curran was the woman that was the prospective juror. She said that she did believe in Capital Punishment but the defendant being a woman would influence her verdict, and that she had already formed an opinion on the case. She was excused. Only two of the eighteen prospective jurors were accepted both were married men with children.
Catherine Rosier’s Trial – Days 2, 3 and 4
On the second day of court, Catherine was near collapse. At the end of the morning session, only three more jurors had been selected for a total of 5. There was a difficult time filling the jury. Between men that did not believe in Capital Punishment and men that did not believe in putting women to death. And Judge Barrett excused all the women on the prospective juror panel. They all said that they could not be objective.
The guard that was guarding her had to leave and get her smelling salts, that Catherine used off and on. Judge Barrett only allowed people that needed to be there in the courtroom during jury selection so there were lots of empty chairs.
Day three of the trial was a continuation of jury selection. By the close of court only ten jurors had been selected.
The jury selection continues day 4. Finally, the last 2 jurors were selected, after interviewing 107 prospective jurors. Catherine had needed to use the smelling salts several times during the morning session.
After the 12 men were sworn in, the charges were read. Catherine Rosier stood up and faced the jury as the charges were being read. She seemed fine until the Court Crier, Levi Hart read Mildred Geraldine Reckitt killed and murdered, Catherine closed her eyes and collapsed into the arms of the two guards that were watching her. The guards held her upright until Hart finished reading all the charges against her. Then they let her sit.
Her mother Sue Reid, and sister-in-law Mrs. Ralph Chappelle began crying.
Maurice Speiser began his opening remarks, calling Catherine a willful murderess, worthy of the death penalty. Catherine just used the smelling salts and remained calm.
Since it was a Saturday, court was due to adjourn at 12:30. But Speiser got 3 witnesses in before the adjournment.
The first witness was William Reckitt, Jerry’s father. Mr. Reckitt was a tall gaunt faced man with a deep voice. He testified to the identity of his daughter. He was not cross examined by Scott.
The second witness was Charles Miller who at the time of the shooting was dating one of Jerry’s sisters but had since married her. He also identified Jerry.
John Klein the police photographer was next, and he brought several photos of the Rosier Offices. Klein was not through testifying when court was adjourned so he will take the stand when court resumes Monday morning.