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Day 14 – November 3, 1922
The jurors had a smoke break, discussed the case, had another smoke break, and returned to the courtroom at 4:41 pm, this all took one hour and forty-eight minutes.
Catherine Rosier was ordered to stand and face the jury. She had to be supported by Mr. Collins.
“How do you say Mr. Foreman, guilty or not guilty?”
Mr. Robinson whose face was expressionless, said, “Not guilty.”
The courtroom went silent.
Then Catherine screamed and fainted. She was carried from the courtroom.
As she left the full weight of the verdict descended on the 1,500 people gathered in the courtroom. Chaos erupted! Women began screaming and crying and cheered themselves hoarse. Men threw their hats in the air and cheered. Many women began dancing for joy. Men and women overwhelmed Scott and Collins in their congratulations! Speiser was the first to congratulate them.
Judge Barratt called the attorneys to a side bar. Chief District Attorney Rotan accompanied them. A few minutes of discussion and the attorney’s returned to their seats. Speiser moved that the charges of manslaughter of Oscar Rosier be submitted for a verdict of “Not Guilty”.
Catherine Rosier returned to the courtroom and shook the hands of the jurors who had acquitted her, saying “Thank God”.
She then asked for her baby who was brought to her. Women in the courtroom fought to be able to kiss little Richard.
When the jurors were asked, they said that it only took one vote to acquit Catherine.
Catherine left with her attorneys and returned to their offices. There she met with her mother, brothers, and friends. She left to go home with her mother. They intended to keep her in seclusion so that she could regain her health after nine months in prison and the stress of a two-week trial.
She was met by reporters. “Did I expect an acquittal?
“Well, I can only say I feel it was an answer to prayer. I have prayed day and night that I would be set free, and now I know that God heard and answered me. With the help of God, Mr. Scott, and Mr. Connor I have been acquitted.
“I haven’t had a chance to make any definite plans as to what I am going to do. But I know I want to get away and get a good rest first of all. I am really exhausted.
“I want to get away from the crowds, but not from my friends that have stuck to me so loyally and been so kind to me. I think I will spend my time just visiting my friends in the country for a while, for I know it is going to take a long time for me to regain my health.”
And so, the story ends…
After Catherine is Acquitted
Not really Catherine had more in front of her.
First, Catherine Rosier was offered $2,500.00 per week to go into Vaudeville which she refused.
Then there was the matter of the will that Oscar dictated from his death bed. Oscar handwrote a new will on his death bed leaving everything to Arthur and Oscar Jr. The will was finally admitted to probate on July 20, 1923. Catherine protested it but her petition was thrown out.
Arthur testified that he had helped Oscar sign the will. Richard and Frank Clegg testified next.
Richard testified that he and his father met Arthur at a police station. Arthur then produced a small book with the will written in it, Arthur told them that he was forced to help his dying brother write his signature on the will.
Mrs. Clegg testified next. She told the court that Arthur had come home with Richard. The first thing Arthur did was ask for a drink. Mrs. Clegg told Arthur he could have a drink of water, as he had the appearance of having been drinking.
Arthur told her, “Catherine was not as smart as she thought she was.” He then told her how he had assisted his brother write the new will.
Even though Catherine Rosier was not named in the will, as the widow, in the state of Pennsylvania she received a third of the estate. Richard her son, also received a third of the $54,000 estate. That left the final third for Arthur and Oscar, Jr. to split.
Next, in April 1924 Catherine sold the house in Stonehurst.
Catherine’s custody battle for Oscar Jr.
June 1924, Catherine is in a custody battle for Oscar, Jr. , 11 years old. During the hearing, the judge asked Mrs. Fischer who Oscar was staying with in a home and school for motherless children, whether he wanted to live with her or with Catherine.
Before she could answer Oscar answered, “You see, I hated her ever since she killed my daddy, for my daddy was good to me. Well while she was in jail, I told people at Stonehurst that I hoped she would be electrocuted and when she found it out, she fussed so much I was afraid to say anything.
“When I got to Mrs. Fischer’s, I asked Mrs. Fischer not to call that creature ‘mother’ to me but of course Mrs. Fischer did not obey me. Mrs. Rosier sent for me to visit her last summer in Pottstown. Mrs. Fischer persuaded me to go. When I went to retire, I found I did not have a nice room to myself as I do at Mrs. Fischer’s, but I was told to get in bed with her.
“I was afraid of her and I tried to stay awake. When I returned, I said to Mrs. Fischer ‘never again’. But after that she asked Mrs. Fischer to send me to her for a day just before Christmas.
“Mrs. Fischer said I had to go and greet her with respect. On the way home Mrs. Rosier asked how I would like her to get married. This showed me that she intended to make her home and take me with her to witness more fighting. It will all happen again if she marries for, she has a jealous disposition and a terrible temper.”
In a surprise decision Vice Chancellor Leaming allows Oscar, Jr. to choose where he wants to live. When Oscar chooses to stay with Mrs. Fischer, she is instructed by the court that it would be her “duty to use every means within her power to induce the boy to respect and love Catherine Rosier.”
Mrs. Fischer’s response was “I am no hypocrite. I never promised to teach this boy to love the woman who shot his father, and I don’t propose to do it. I can’t instruct this boy to love that woman. I won’t do it.”
Battle with Insurance Companies
Then there were the Insurance Companies. For the first time Catherine and Arthur were allies.
The Insurance Companies had no problem paying out the policy value, however the policies were accident indemnity policies, which meant they paid double if the death was the result of an accident. In Pennsylvania, if the shooter, in this case, is acquitted for insanity it is considered an accidental death.
However, there was a clause in the policy that said that if the policy holder was killed during an illegal act, the indemnity portion of the policy was null and void. Adultery was illegal in the state of Pennsylvania, so the Insurance companies claimed that the indemnity portion was null and void.
The court found in favor of Catherine and Arthur.
In December 1924. the insurance companies with the Accident policies appeal the decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals. The point of the appeal is that Oscar and Jerry were breaking the law at the time of their deaths. This testimony was barred by Judge Thompson in the original trial. The three judges, Buffington, Wooley and Davis heard the arguments but reserved a decision.
The Missouri State Life Insurance company and the Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States lost their appeal and had to pay Oscar’s estate an additional $35,888.00 per the ruling of Judge J. Whitaker Thomas. Catherine Rosier received 1/3 of it or almost $12,000 which would be about $180,000 in today’s currency.
I could find nothing more about Catherine Rosier after this, except in an interview that John R.K. Scott gave, when asked about Catherine, he said that she was working in a department store for $18 a week.
John R.K. Scott died at the age of 71, December 10, 1945. Scott was said to have gotten more acquittals for murder for his clients than any other attorney in the history of Pennsylvania. His defense of Catherine Rosier brought him national attention and boosted his career.
Some say the saying get off “Scott Free” was inspired by him and all of the acquittals he won for his clients.
This was a really long story that lasted over two weeks. Did you like the longer format broken up like that or would you rather have shorter stories that you can read all at once? Please let me know in the comments section!