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Murder, Culture, and Injustice

Four Sensational Cases in American History

By Walter L. Hixson

Publication Year: 2000

Walter Hixson's pithy narrative account of four sensational murder cases---the Lizzie Borden, Lindbergh baby, Sam Sheppard, and O.J. Simpson trials---offers interesting observations into the greater cultural and political forces that shaped their verdicts. His step-by-step analysis of the details of each case provides not only insight by skillful synthesis of the existing literature but also a solid overview of the events surrounding these four cases, each of which became a national obsession as well as a miscarriage of justice. Taking a fresh look at the criminal justice system and the role of the media in the larger American milieu, Hixson delves into sociocultural impacts of crime that are both thought-provoking and fascinating reading.

Published by: The University of Akron Press


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pp. v

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pp. 1-4

The four murder cases and the subsequent criminal trials analyzed in this book are among the most sensational in American history. As primordial dramas involving murder within or against a socially prominent family, the Lizzie Borden, Lindbergh baby, Sam Sheppard, and O. J. Simpson cases riveted the public. ...

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I - Gendered Justice: Lizzie Borden and Victorian America

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pp. 5-66

Lizzie Borden, at age 33, as she appeared a year after the murders. She was active in the Central Congregational Church, Christian Endeavor, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and the Fruit and Flower Mission. Given Miss Lizzie’s appearance of schoolmarmish normality, most residents of Fall River found it difficult to conceive of her carrying out the brutal hatchet murders. ...

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II - Vengeance: Bruno Richard Hauptmann and The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping

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pp. 67-128

The Lindbergh baby, Charles Augustus Lindbergh Jr. The dimpled, curly haired son of a popular American hero was born on his mother’s birthday, June 22, 1930. The kidnapping on March 1, 1932, shocked the nation and precipitated an arduous criminal investigation. The baby’s body was not discovered in its shallow grave until more than two months after the kidnapping and murder. ...

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III - Vendetta: Sam Sheppard and The North Shore Nightmare

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pp. 134-194

High school sweethearts Marilyn Reese and Sam Sheppard married in Hollywood in 1945 while Sam attended the Los Angeles College of Osteopathic Physicians. Returning to Cleveland, where his father had staked out a thriving practice of osteopathic medicine, Sam purchased a white Dutch colonial home on the lakefront in the elite western suburb of Bay Village. It was there that Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned to death in the early morning hours of July 4, 1954. ...

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IV - A House Divided: Race and The O. J. Simpson Case

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pp. 195-254

Orenthal James Simpson, flanked by defense attorneys F. Lee Bailey and Johnnie Cochran (right) exults in triumph as the jury announces the verdict of “not guilty” at the conclusion of his trial for double homicide on October 3, 1995. The Simpson jury, sequestered for almost a full year during the nationally televised trial, spent less than two hours discussing the mountain of evidence assembled in the case. The jury in the subsequent, and much shorter, civil trial deliberated for 13 hours before issuing three judgments against Simpson totalling $33.5 million. ...

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V - Conclusion: Sensational Murder and American Justice

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pp. 255-262

This study of four sensational murder cases in American history illuminates the vulnerabilities of the criminal justice system, especially in high-profile cases. Celebrity trials,with their feverish media coverage, place inordinant pressures on those responsible for administering criminal justice. As we have seen in all four cases, police, attorneys, judges, and juries often succumb to those pressures, particularly in sensational murder trials. ...

Critical Bibliography

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pp. 263-269


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pp. 271-274

E-ISBN-13: 9781935603221
E-ISBN-10: 1935603221
Print-ISBN-13: 9781931968546
Print-ISBN-10: 1931968543

Page Count: 167
Illustrations: 23 photos
Publication Year: 2000