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State v. Lederman

Decided: February 2, 1934.


On error to Essex County Court of Oyer and Terminer.

For the state, William A. Wachenfeld, prosecutor, and Joseph E. Conlon.

For the plaintiff in error, Joseph Kraemer and Charles Handler.


The opinion of the court was delivered by

CASE, J. Fannie Lederman, herein called the defendant, was convicted in the Essex Oyer and Terminer in the second degree for the murder of her husband, David Lederman. The case comes up on bill of exceptions and also under the one hundred and thirty-sixth section of the Criminal Procedure act.

Defendant gathers the alleged errors under four points. We shall discuss the last one first. It is that the verdict is against the weight of the evidence.

The defendant was forty-eight years of age. She lived with her husband and four children, ranging from twelve to twenty years of age, in a second-story apartment consisting of four rooms arranged in a straight line, one behind another. The front hall ran longitudinally with the apartment, and had a door entering the front room and another entering the kitchen, where the hall ended. The kitchen had a back door opening on a porch that was used in common with other tenants. A family named Rudy lived in the apartment on the opposite side of the hallway.

Rose, the youngest child, returned from school on Monday, March 13th, 1933, at about half past eleven o'clock. She entered the front hall and, finding both doors locked, knocked so loudly that she was heard by the Rudys. She finally gained entrance by going through the Rudy kitchen and over the back porch into the Lederman kitchen. There she heard her mother moaning. Her father was dead on his bed in the room adjoining the kitchen, and her mother was lying on the floor of the room next forward. A hospital was notified. The house surgeon came immediately. The defendant was still lying on the floor, apparently unconscious. The physician was convinced by a nerve test that the woman was not in fact unconscious; he further concluded that, although she had bruises on both cheeks, the blows that caused those marks were not sufficient to render her unconscious. A tooth of the defendant and a broken false plate from the defendant's mouth were found on the floor. The defendant was taken to the hospital. An examination there made disclosed that there was no blood on her mouth or about her lips and that her face was not lacerated. Nevertheless there were blood marks on the back of her hands and blood marks on her face such as would be caused by contact with bloody hands, but which did not appear to have come from any injury sustained by her. A microscopic and chemical examination showed that numerous spots upon her dress, apron, stockings and shoes were blood of human origin. The defendant had worn two pairs of stockings, one over the other, and a blood spot on one of the stockings, considerable enough to carry through to a

corresponding position on the stocking worn beneath, bore evidence of being watered as though in an attempt at washing. A sweater was worn by the defendant at the time she was found -- significant because earlier in the morning she did not have it on.

The deceased had been beaten severely about the head, one wound on the back of the head and thirteen wounds on the face -- about evenly distributed between the right and left side. The bedding at and near the pillows was drenched with blood. There was a pool of blood on the floor at the bedside, and the wall, except as protected by the person of the murderer, was spattered. Dr. Martland testified that in his opinion the deceased had died "around nine, ten or eleven o'clock -- probably nearer ten than any other time." He further testified, with regard to the strength required for such violence, that although the result indicated strong blows, they "might have been administered by a twelve-year-old child." In addition to the wounds made on the occasion of the murder earlier injuries were found, consisting of bruises and lacerations made two or three days before.

The testimony of the defendant was that she had last seen her husband sitting in the kitchen smoking a cigarette; that she then proceeded to clean the bedrooms and was busy in her own room when "a man came in with a mask on and I was afraid and I called my husband and the man quick come in -- and he hit me in the face;" that she does not remember how many times she was hit; and that she does not know what happened after that until she found herself in the hospital. That is her brief and rather colorless story. There is little in the way of supporting incident. The room in which the decedent was found lying on the bed, done to his death, was immediately adjoining the one in which the defendant says she was attacked and in which she was ...

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