Last week we briefly discussed the legal system and the history dating back to the 1700s to depict how the laws have progressed throughout time. This week we will be going into thorough detail about the legal system to further our understanding of Harrison’s case. In addition, examples of other cases during Ada Brown’s time will be discussed so that we can get a better understanding of how the legal system worked.
The advancements of the legal systems were very limited. It wasn’t until the mid-1800s that Hartford, CT established its legal system and that consisted of uneducated, unprofessional officials. On the other hand, the one aspect that has progressively changed was the execution by methods, and all the other factors involved such as, crime, gender, race, and so on. According to a 32 year old study of executions in the US, as time progressed, the rate of executions under legal civil authority increased dramatically. As you can see from the table beneath, executions significantly rose from 1825-1925. Executions during the 1800s were mostly due to murder or rape. This is relevant to Ada Brown because it depicts that during her existence, rate of crime was high and normal, therefore, it was not uncommon for murder to occur. The first method of execution was beheading in the 1600s, then as time went by it was a mix of hanging, and firing squad. Furthermore, two convicts were executed in the 1800s near the time of Ada Brown’s murder, in the method of hanging from committing murder.
On October 1, 1827, the Wethersfield State Prison, located on State Street and overlooking the Connecticut River, opened for operation. This new operation held 121 inmates under the care of Warden Moses Pillsbury. The Wethersfield State prison replaced the Newgate Prison in Simsbury which operated from 1773 to 1827. However due to it being underdeveloped and outdated, the new central prison took over.
The Wethersfield State Prison was founded on the correctional method, Auburn system, a regimen of strict silence for prisoners at all time, which allowed them for social solitude to reflect on their crimes. The prison also allowed inmate to be employed in prison trade shops during the day and confirmed to their cells at all other times throughout the duration of their stay. Some may see Wethersfield as a place for harsh punishments, but for its time, it was an institution on the cutting edge of prison reform. Alexis de Tocqueville, a French political author and historian visited the institution in 1831 calling it a “Model institution with extreme mildness.”
Both male and female prisoners were housed in separate housing units in the prison. Incarcerated women took on their “normal” womanly duties such as cooking, cleaning, and repairing clothing which was used in the prison, as well as making cigars. While male prisoners worked as carpenters, coopers who made bound wooden vessels-barrels, tailors, and blacksmiths. Until 1880, prison labor supported the cost of running the facility. Wethersfield was known for prisoners to serve long to life sentences at this maximum-security facility. Those who severed their time in Wethersfield, served time from stealing horses, arson, to murder. Between 1894 and 1960 seventy-three prisoners were executed at the prison, with 55 being hung before the method was stopped in the 1930’s. Harrison was issued to Wethersfield State Prison on January ninth, 1885, for seven years, under the crime of manslaughter.
On September 2nd, 1883 a woman by the name of Rose Clark Ambler was found dead in the streets of Stratford, CT. The cause of death was beating and stabbing. This was known as the Raven Stream Crime because that is where her body was found. Her case was one of the top unsolved crimes in Connecticut during that time. Rose was last seen by her fiance William Lewis who was the primary suspect in her case. It was never solved because there was no evidence to connect William to Rose’s death, there was only a theory that he was jealous and thought Rose was having an affair. Rose left her fiance’s father’s house around 10:00 at night and was headed to her home about a mile and a half away. Rose was not carrying any money and there was no apparent motive to the crime. The autopsy revealed she was not raped which made the case that much more difficult in understanding. The interesting part about her case was that a reward of $300, later raised to $1,000 was offered for any information. The dedication and hard work that was put into her case by both the coroner, and police department was significantly different than the work put into Ada Brown’s case. The detectives in her case were asking all the residents that lived where Rose was found questions on if they heard or saw anything. In Ada Brown’s case Gregory and Harrison were the key suspects and they were also used as witnesses to each others crime which made no sense whatsoever. In fact, the coroner kept spelling Ada’s full name of Frances, two different way (Francis and Frances), which seems very unprofessional that her real name could not even be spelt right. Ultimately, even though Rose’s case could not be solved, it was handled with hard working detectives and a coroner that questioned many people, and gathered as much evidence as possible to come up with a motive. It is significant to Ada Brown’s case because it was near the same time and they were handled very differently which was interesting to find out.
-Angie, Ashley, Lauren
Daniels, R., Harvey, J., & says, R. D. (2014, November 17). Wethersfield house tour. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://wethersfieldhistory.org/collections/castle-on-the-cove-the-connecticut-state-prison-and-wethersfield/
HOFFMAN, C., & Courant, S. to T. (2014, September 4). Hartford courant: Connecticut breaking news, UConn sports, business, entertainment, weather and traffic – Hartford courant. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://www.courant.com/search/dispatcher.front?Query=wethersfield+state+prison&target=all&isSearch=true&spell=on
Library, C. S., Powered, & Ray, A. (2016). Wethersfield prison record warrants. Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://ctstatelibrary.org/wethersfield-prison-record-warrants/
PORTER, M., mmporter, & Courant, H. (2014, April 30). Serial poisoner Lydia Sherman: Connecticut’s “Lucrezia Borgia.” Retrieved October 30, 2016, from http://www.courant.com/news/connecticut/hc-250-lydia-sherman-20140429-story.htm
Wilhelm, Robert. “The Raven Stream Crime.” Murder by Gaslight:. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Oct. 2016.
“Death Penalty Procon.org.” Proconorg Headlines. N.p., n.d Web. 30 Oct. 2016.