Catherine Rosier – Rebuttals and Closing Statements

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Speiser and Scott

We continue the Catherine Rosier story with the Rebuttals and Closing Statements.

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Day 11 – October 31, 1922

Mrs. Margaret Nace was the next witness to be called to the stand.  Mrs. Nace was unable to be located and a battle between Scott and Speiser was going on as to whether her testimony at the Inquest could be read in the record as evidence. 

Sixty-year-old Mrs. Nace was a former servant in the Rosier household.  She testified that she heard Oscar say to Arthur, “he was getting a divorce from Catherine.  You might as well use her as anyone else.”  The women in the audience gasped!

Mrs. Nace continued, “Almost every day Arthur made advances on her.  On more than one occasion he tried to force her.  It might have been 10 times.  The last time that I know of was Thursday night (two nights before the shooting), I was in the kitchen when he tried to drag her upstairs.”

Next two alienists (psychiatrists) took the stand.  Dr. Charles K. Mills and Dr. George Wilson both testified that Catherine Rosier was unable to distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the shooting.  Speiser could get neither one to back down from their original testimony. 

Dr. Wilson further testified that even though Catherine acted normal when she called her attorney and refused to lend her coat to Jerry that she was insane at the time she fired the pistol and remained that way for a while.

With this defense rested their case.

Maurice Speiser
Maurice Speiser

Day 12 – November 1, 1922

Rebuttal day.  Speiser goes first.

The first witness was a prison matron, Camille Day, that was booed and hissed by the women sitting in the gallery.  The matron testified that Catherine never acted insane in the prison.

Sally Johnson, the other prison matron was called next.  Sally testified that Catherine Rosier was very nervous and depressed when she first came in.  She complained that she couldn’t eat or sleep.  Catherine did make a bag for Sally to keep car tickets in.  When Sally asked her about it later, she didn’t recall making it.  When Speiser re-examined Sally, he asked why she had never mentioned Catherine forgetting about the purse.  Sally replied, “I didn’t think it worthwhile; you didn’t ask me.” 

Speiser then asked Sally to describe the spells that Catherine would have.  Sally responded that Catherine would faint. 

Speiser responded, “So that is what you mean by a spell?”

“What would you mean by a spell?”  Sally replied and was dismissed from the stand.

Dr. Margaret Nelson, the prison physician, stated that in her opinion Catherine Rosier was sane, however when Scott cross-examined her, she did admit to writing a report that stated Catherine was subnormal and mentally deficient.

Next Frances W. Jones, an agent from the Girls’ Aid Society that Sue Reid had contacted when she thought Catherine was going to elope at 15.   Miss Jones testified that Catherine had been infatuated with a wagon driver, Richard Bent and wanted to marry him but Sue and Frances dissuaded her.

Speiser asked such ugly insidious questions that he was booed and hissed by the women in the gallery.  They also made angry exclamations to an extent that Judge Barratt threatened to clear the courtroom. 

Franz Koenig an agent for the apartment building where Oscar lived prior to marrying Catherine, testified that Catherine went to the apartment once. 

Dr. Horace Phillips of the U.S. Public Health Service testified that he had called on Catherine Rosier in prison to examine her for her state of sanity.  She refused to answer his questions on the advice of Scott, but he thought that she was sane.

Nicholas Bruno was called next.  He was the deputy sheriff in charge of watching Catherine during the trial.  He refused to answer the questions Speiser asked him.

Frances Jones was recalled to the stand.  She testified this time that Catherine had told her that she was doing things she should not have done, and it was worrying her mother.

Court recessed for lunch.

The first witnesses after lunch were the nurses that attended her in the hospital when she gave birth.  Miss Freda Golden was the first one called to the stand.  She testified that Catherine’s case was normal, and she didn’t talk about her husband or homelife.

Dr. Walter J. Daly was called next he was the physician that had attended Catherine Rosier at the police station.  He testified that he had observed her condition, she was in a highly nervous condition and he had to administer sedatives.  In his opinion she was insane.

Arthur Rosier was called to the stand.  Arthur testified that several days before the shooting, Catherine had rushed her husband with a milk bottle screaming, “I’ll kill you!”. 

He further testified that Catherine was unduly jealous of the girls in Oscar’s office and said, “She constantly said she supposed her husband was running around with Jerry Reckitt.”  Uh-huh, poor innocent Arthur.

The next witness was Joseph McClain, the county detective that accompanied Catherine to Oscar’s funeral.  After the funeral Connor, the second defense attorney, suggested they go to lunch.  After lunch they stopped at a drug store to buy some toiletries for Catherine to take back to the prison.  He felt that she acted in a quiet rational manner.

Then comes Scott on the cross-examination. 

“Did you hear anything unusual at the luncheon?”

“There was something said about beads, and she said, ‘I wonder if they found all mine.  I lost them in the office.’”

“Isn’t it true, Mr. McClain,” continued Scott’s cross examination, “that she was so nervous and crying all the time that you pulled down the blinds?”

“I can answer that question in two ways,” replied McClain. 

“You did pull down the blinds?” questioned Scott.


“She was crying?”

“Yes, she cried.  Shall I tell you why I pulled down the blinds?”

“Yes, tell us why,” interrupted Speiser.

“To keep the newspaper men and photographers away.”

“She was crying all the time, “asked Scott.

“I had other things to watch so she wouldn’t be annoyed, so I couldn’t say she was crying the whole time.”

McClain was dismissed and John McCarry an attaché of the coroner’s office was the next witness called by Speiser.

McCarry testified that Catherine Rosier seemed a little depressed and excitable when he picked her up from the county jail to attend the Coroner’s Inquiry.

He also testified that he took Catherine to a hotel after the Inquiry.  This started another battle between the attorneys.    

McCarry could not testify whether Catherine had eaten lunch or not.  Mr. Paul his supervisor was at the table with them.  Speiser tried to get Mr. Paul in court to testify, but he was in Baltimore.  They telegraphed him to be in court the next day.

Dr. Daniel McCarthy was called next, he was a professor of medical jurisprudence at the University of Pennsylvania.  As his credentials were being qualified, Catherine had a heart attack and was carried from the courtroom.

Court adjourned at 3:00.  When it did a group of women descended on the Defense table.  They were trying to embrace Mr. Scott for his defense of Catherine.  One fell to her knees and kissed his hand.

John R.K. Scott - Catherine Rosier's Attorney
John R.K. Scott – Catherine’s Attorney

Day 13 – November 2, 1922

Dr. McCarthy was recalled to the stand. 

Catherine entered the courtroom looking pale and wan. 

Dr. McCarthy testified that Catherine was sane at the time of the murder.

John R. K. Scott waived his sur-rebuttal.  Feeling that the prosecutions rebuttal was weak and needed no more witnesses.

Speiser then summed up his case.  He then declared that it was a cold-blooded murder and deserved the death penalty. “It can’t be heralded throughout the land, one can take human lives two at a time, if you please, because one happens to be an emaciated woman.  Nothing has been shown in this case to prove that Mildred Reckitt, her victim was anything but a pure sweet girl.  The correct name for this defendant should be a jealous little fool – just what her husband called her.” 

He then went on to say that Oscar Rosier was a good and thoughtful husband.  He said aside from Catherine’s testimony that there was no evidence there had been a love affair.  I guess he forgot about Oscar telling his neighbors about Jerry’s gorgeous underwear…

His address to the court was halted by the noon recess of the court, due to the funeral of a judge who had died recently.

Catherine Rosier and son RIchard
Catherine Rosier and son Richard

Day 14 – November 3, 1922

Catherine the day before had received a note from Anna K. Jarvis, originator of the Mother’s Day movement.

If the courtroom had been packed before today it was more than usual.  Fifty women were waiting outside at 7:00 am.  Those that arrived late didn’t even make it to the courtroom doors.  As soon as the doors opened there was a mad dash for seats.  Almost every chair had two women sharing it, and for the first time there were men present too!

John R. K. Scott gives his closing.

Before he speaks, Judge Barratt warned the jury in his most severe voice, “I want to warn everyone that any expressions of approval or disapproval that might influence the jury in coming to a just decision will impel me to clear the court of all spectators.”

John R.K. Scott began, “Gentlemen of the jury, we have now happily for this young woman, reached the conclusion of this case.  It has come after two weeks and you receive it as you sit in judgement, to weigh the information that has been offered. 

“I take it that this is not a hard case for you to come to some conclusion in.  You have heard the case presented by the District Attorney, who has acted with great fairness, but he has presents in this case evidence which was not evidence of the entire transaction.”           

Scott said that the shots fired, “were not controlled by the hand of this young woman but controlled by an unseen power in the mind of a young woman, over which she had no power.”

He paced the floor, flung out his hands and called down Heaven’s pity on “this innocent child.”  He was dramatic!  The women in the courtroom loved it!  He thanked God for little Nick Bruno who dared Speiser’s wrath for testifying for Catherine.

He then reviewed the testimony of the reports that were immediately at the scene and their descriptions that Catherine Rosier was irrational and unstrung.

Scott then called Speiser “terribly unfair”.  This was because he had suppressed witnesses that would testify that Catherine was emotionally insane.

He then took on the police officer’s that testified about the holes in Jerry’s dress.  About how the fact that they took the dress to the basement and fired more holes into it, didn’t come into play until the cross-examination.  He doubted that Speiser didn’t already know about that.

Scott next took on Arthur Rosier.  “What have we against the character of that brother Arthur? We know that he is a married man.  We have heard the District Attorney refer to him as a boy.  We did not hear that he left a wife and children in Australia on a bare floor, starving.”   

Speiser jumped up in outrage at this.  “This is not in the evidence, Your Honor.”  And Judge Barratt agreed.

He described Arthur as “taunting, slimy, crawling, lustful, despicable creature.”  He also called him a snake and blamed him for driving Catherine insane by his barrage of taunts about Oscar and Jerry.

Scott continued to list a slew of witnesses who had nothing bad to say about Catherine, all of it came from Arthur. 

“This child was crushed, beaten down.  She had no hope all hands were turned against her; there was none to help her or her baby.  And the madness borne in her from her ancestors started to take it’s ascendency in her mind, and started to manifest itself.”

The case was sent to the jury at 2:55 pm. 

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