Catherine Rosier – The Defense

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Catherine Rosier
Catherine Rosier

Catherine Rosier’s Trial – Day 8 – October 26, 1922

On the cross examination of one of the police detectives Scott found that the black skirt worn by Jerry Reckitt was taken to the basement of the police headquarters and shot repeatedly with the pistol that Catherine had used to shoot both Jerry and Oscar.  This was significant in that previously witnesses had testified that there was just one hole in Jerry’s skirt.  Judge Barratt ordered that the clothing be removed from evidence as it had been tampered with.

Jerry’s mother was the final witness for the prosecution.  She testified that Jerry’s final words were asking her mother to pray for her.

Prosecution rested their case.

John R. K. Scott begins his opening address to the court.  He blames the killings on a “Momentary madness the sudden rush of blood in which heritage had placed the taints of insanity.”

“We will show you that when she reproached her husband, he told her it was true, that he intended to cast Mrs. Rosier off.  Arthur Rosier, the husbands brother said to her ‘You might as well have me’.  When the defendant again attempted to regain her husband’s love, he threw her to the floor.  Then, Mrs. Rosier attempted to kill herself.  Mrs. Rosier appealed to Miss Reckitt to give up Oscar Rosier.  First, the stenographer promised, but later said to Mrs. Rosier, ‘No use of making yourself pretty; he’ll have nothing to do with you.’  We will show that she opened the door she saw a scene that drove her to madness.

“After we have shown you the weak source of this young woman’s blood, and all the surrounding circumstances that caused her to be driven mad we will show you by men eminent in their profession that when the shots were fired, she was mad, bereft of all reason, incapable of knowing the difference between right and wrong.”

Attorney Scott contends that Catherine went to Oscar’s office with the intent to plead with him to give up Jerry and if that didn’t work, kill herself.  However, what she saw in Oscar’s office was so horrific to her that she killed them instead in a fit of momentary insanity.

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

Catherine Rosier’s Defense – Day 9 – October 27, 1922

Catherine today had discarded the mourning veil that she had been wearing throughout the trial.  Without it the jurors and spectators could see how worn and haggard she is.  According to the Courier-Post of Camden, NJ, “The pathos of her face, however, has a haunting quality which cannot fail to move all who behold it.  The jurors have not been impervious to it.”

Susan Reid, the star witness for the defense took the stand and began a very dramatic testimony that had the spectators and the jurors in tears.

Susan Reid testified that Oscar beat Catherine when she was pregnant.  As she was testifying one of the women spectators fainted and some of the jurors wiped their eyes.  Susan herself cried off and on during her testimony.

She also told of Arthur Rosier, Oscar’s brother constant tormenting Catherine about Oscar’s infidelity with his stenographer, Jerry Reckitt.  “I warned my daughter against Arthur Rosier and told her he would try to trap her in a compromising position.”  Maurice Speiser, of course objected, but Judge Barret ruled that the testimony was material to the case.    Susan further testified that Catherine told her that Arthur had said that Oscar was in love with Jerry and would frame Catherine with Arthur as a co-respondent so he could divorce her.

Mrs. Reid further testified that Catherine grew up as a sickly child.  Once she fell down the stairs and had suffered intermittent headaches since.  After Catherine’s baby was born, she went to Philadelphia to stay with her mother.  Susan found her daughter completely changed. 

“Mother I’m sick.  I can’t stand what Arthur is telling me about Oscar and Jerry Reckitt.  Mother, it’s killing me!’

She also testified that her father was crazy several months before he died, and that her husband, Catherine’s father, was a drunkard and abused both Susan and Catherine.  Susan also testified that she had an eight-year-old son who was an “imbecile” and had the mental capacity of a three-year-old.

Susan’s final testimony was that Catherine had tried to kill herself, but the pistol misfired, and she shot the floor.  Oscar was heard saying, “Too bad!”

Speiser in the cross examination of Susan made the women spectators, all hundred plus of them indignant when he tried to impugn Catherine’s character.  He asked Susan if Catherine “had given her any trouble and had to be looked after between the ages of thirteen and eighteen.”  Scott objected and Judge Barratt made Speiser withdraw the question.

Speiser was fairly brutal in his cross exam of Sue about Catherine that he called “boy crazy”. 

Scott the defense attorney objected numerous times to both the questions and the tone of the questions, and the judge agreed with him. 

The only time he let Speiser continue was when the line of questioning went to Susan Reid going to a girls’ aid society for help in keeping Catherine on the straight and narrow.  Susan wept when she talked about it.

The spectators gasped at some of the questions that Speiser asked Susan.  Most of which she vehemently denied.

Catherine wept all during her mother’s testimony and once needed to leave the courtroom to get some air. 

When the court adjourned for lunch, Catherine, her mother, and baby Richard went to the Sherriff’s cell room.  Catherine was sitting in a chair feeding Richard a bottle when she fainted, and Richard and the bottle slid to the floor.  Dr. Charles Bricker the police surgeon was summoned, and it took him 20 minutes to bring Catherine back to consciousness.  The physicians that examined her diagnosed her as suffering from a valvular heart problem, shattered nerves, and anemia.  They fear that she could suffer a heart attack. 

Christy Mathewson
Christy Mathewson

Mrs. Minerva Matthewson, mother of Christy Matthewson, and Catherine’s aunt next took the stand.

Christy Matthewson was a major league baseball pitcher who spent 17 seasons with the New York Giants.  He was one of the best pitchers in baseball history and is still in the top 10 of several pitching statistics, one hundred years later.

Minerva testified that Catherine’s maternal grandfather, George Capwell, her brother, died a “maniac”.  She further testified that Christy’s brother committed suicide while he was insane. 

Several women took the stand next including Catherine’s neighbors and friends.  One of them testified to Oscar’s scheme to get a divorce, another testified that Catherine had confided that she was “going out of my mind”. 

A third, a neighbor testified how Catherine had gone from a “happy care-free girl to a nervous, pale, twitchy woman who bit her fingernails and let her house and person go untidy.” 

This same neighbor also testified that she had overheard Arthur and Oscar talking about Catherine’s attempted suicide.  Catherine’s cheek was bruised and swollen the day before the shooting.  She told the woman that Oscar had hit her.

Catherine, Susan Reid and Baby Richard
Catherine, Susan Reid and Baby Richard

Catherine Rosier’s Defense – Day 10 – October 28, 1922

Catherine has already fainted in the waiting room, so she has been given a narcotic to keep her going.

Mrs. Clegg, one of Catherine’s friends testified that Catherine had come to her home with her arm bandaged.  When she asked what had happened Catherine told her that she had complained about him taking Jerry to the theatre and he had slapped her in the face and knocked her down and she had hurt her arm. 

She also testified that when she and her husband and Catherine and Oscar were out to dinner how Oscar told them all that Jerry had beautiful underwear.  He then went on to say Catherine was a bad shot shooting the floor or up in the air. 

Mrs. Clegg asked him why Catherine had a pistol and Oscar told them that he was teaching her to shoot.  She then testified that on the day of the shooting Catherine had asked her to keep Richard and Junior while she went to town.  Catherine brought Richard over but not Junior as he had gone to the dentist with Arthur. 

Mrs. Clegg said that Catherine had been crying.  She further testified that she had only seen Catherine drink once and that was a glass of wine in her own home. 

William Clegg her husband was called next.  He testified that when Catherine came home from the hospital, he asked Oscar if he was happy that Catherine was home, he said that Oscar said, “My wife’s being home is alright, but my own good times are over.”  William said this statement was made in front of Catherine and she started crying.  He saw her crying another time and asked Arthur what was going on and he answered that Oscar wasn’t coming home at night anymore.

“For God’s sake, don’t tell my mother what happened.”  this was one of the last sentences Jerry Reckitt spoke from her death bed.  Catherine’s attorney, John R. K. Scott, is using this statement along with other evidence to prove that the “Unwritten Law” was in force and that Jerry was having an adulterous affair with Oscar. 

The prosecution argued that the statement meant that she didn’t want her mother to know about her death.  Magistrate Carney was called to the hospital after the shooting gave this testimony. 

Prosecutor Speiser didn’t believe that Carney’s testimony was true. 

Carney responded, “If you don’t believe me, why don’t you call Arthur Rosier!” 

“I will take care of the Commonwealth’s case,” snapped Speiser. 

Dr. Harris, the Rosier family doctor was next called to the stand.  Dr. Harris testified that Catherine had slipped him a note two months before the killing that her husband was being unfaithful. 

The court adjourned at 12:30 because it was Saturday.

Next – Catherine takes the stand!

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1 Comment

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