I ended up being the foreman on the jury of a murder trial. Never having been a foreman before, I wasn’t quite sure of my duties. I also wasn’t quite sure of the rules and regulations about deciding a case. The guilty verdict was only supposed to be given if there was no doubt, right? But I had questions. Facts were inconsistent. Items didn’t seem to have been investigated. Some questions weren’t answered.
In such a situation, how could I return a guilty verdict, even though the defendant had likely murdered the couple? Apparently six other jurors thought similarly. Another seven returned the guilty verdict. Ah! A hung jury.
We had just been walked through the Clem trial of 1868 and in the process literally walked through Benjamin Harrison’s house. (As we passed through the bedroom, I looked for the photograph that I had seen on my tour of the house in the summer. Alas, the photo of Old Whiskers the goat at the White House was nowhere to be found.)
Candlelight Theatre presented the play Cold Blooded this October. Given how much I enjoyed their production at the Benjamin Harrison house in the spring, I was eager to attend Cold Blooded.
Benjamin Harrison, the prosecuting attorney for one of the trials, accompanied us through his house as he explained the case and we saw him question witnesses. There were multiple discrepancies and unknowns. The complexity of the case was a bit overwhelming.
I was struck by the amount of money floating around in the mid-1800s. It seemed quite the norm for people to routinely be in possession of thousands of dollars, even tens of thousands of dollars, to pay bills. Where did they get the money? And how were the bills they owed so large?!
In all, the play was well produced and thoroughly enjoyable. I learned a bit more about Indiana history and the famous murder trials (yes, Nancy Clem was tried multiple times for the same murder) of 1868.
The play was acted in multiple rooms including both the carriage house and the house proper. As we wandered from room (scene) to room (scene), other groups were winding their way through the play with a different Benjamin Harrison as their guide. (The other actors all played supporting roles that could easily be covered by a single actor moving between productions.)
It was wonderful to see familiar faces from the spring play. And as before, we the audience (er, jurors) were within feet, if not inches, of the actors. The ambiance of Benjamin Harrison’s house lent an air to the proceedings that could not have been achieved at a playhouse.
As our Benjamin Harrison led us out of the back door at the end of the trial (and our acquittal), he thanked us for visiting his home. It took a second for that to register. Gotta love that final silly touch to the evening.