As Richard Blake gave his closing argument, he studied every person on the jury like they were his friends. ‘My learned counsel would have you believe that this woman didn’t remember killing her husband. That this is through loss of control because of a long-term volatile relationship. But we know Thomas was having an affair with another woman. Her diary entries clearly show how angry she was feeling. She wanted him dead. This betrayal was the last straw.’
Martha considered the woman, who had taken her husband, realised they were more alike than she cared to admit.
But not anymore.
Her once rival’s plain brown skirt and blouse merged in with the wooden seats. When she had given evidence, they could have been sisters, but now she sat straighter in her seat. Martha could almost hear the words she mouthed – ‘I’m sorry.’
Martha couldn’t condemn her any longer. She had fallen in love with Thomas, just as she had fallen in love.
But now – Elizabeth had pity in her eyes.
‘She has admitted to the court that she wanted her husband dead because of the affair. I put it to you, that after years of staying loyal to her husband, she decided to kill him. His mistress told the court that his wife was unstable, and he was in fear of his own life. Martha was seen threatening them both.’
Blinking at the bright light above her, Martha remained steadfast in her seat. She didn’t feel nervous at what was to come. She just wanted the trial to be over. To find comfort in her prison cell and the job that went with it.
He once again moved along the jury, making sure he could see into the eyes of every one of them. ‘We have heard testimony from the pathologist about the force needed to defend yourself from injury. It is clear from this that it was something she planned to do all along. The amount of force needed to kill a man isn’t the same force used to protect yourself.’
It was like they were talking about a different woman. Theresa, Laura, James, Lucy and even Elizabeth seemed to be rooting for her. The jury, there was no way of telling.
‘Finally, please consider the facts of the case,’ he said, and strode to the front of the jury. ‘The accused even wrote in her diary. Her own thoughts and plans tied up in a neat pile. I want to kill him-she hated him. In her own words “A touch of his car’s anti-freeze should do it. A small amount and I would watch him writhe on the floor, and he would beg me to help him. But I would just stand there and let him die. I could be free of him, and even being in prison would be better than living with a pompous man like him. She planned his death and the only verdict you can come to is guilty.’
With a final flourish of his robes he sat down.
Barbara Craven almost stumbled over the chair as she rose to her feet. She quickly moved towards the jury, began her final statement. ‘The fact that Martha Whitman killed her husband isn’t the issue here; she has admitted as much in court,’ she said, and turned to face Martha. ‘But look at this woman, who has suffered so much at the hands of her vicious husband and tell me she is capable of cold-blooded murder. She was only trying to defend herself from his violent blows.’
It was like she was a rare animal on display in a zoo. All eyes were on her reaction and nothing more.
‘Members of the jury, this woman was treated brutally for many years, not only physically, but mentally too.’ She slowly walked up and down, urging the jury to come to the right decision. ‘This brute of a man wouldn’t even allow her to see her own daughter and granddaughter. Would become physically violent if she did so.’ She gazed at a young woman. ‘Can you imagine living in constant fear of a beating and being told every single time that it was your own fault? It wasn’t only physical abuse, but mental too, from day one of their marriage. You have seen the injuries that this man could commit. Martha could have died because of these injuries, yet she didn’t go to hospital because she didn’t want her husband to get into trouble. She was in total fear of her life when he hit her again on that fateful night and because of the tremendous pressure she snapped. Lost control, in a moment of pure terror. My learned colleague speaks of her diary but wasn’t that the only place she could feel safe to show her anger.’
She turned towards Martha, and it was like time was frozen before she carried on with her speech. ‘She has no real memory of killing her husband and even when she was in hospital thought he would walk through the door – does this sound like a woman who planned to kill her husband?’ Once more her arguments were directed to the jury. ‘This shows that he still has the power over her emotions even now. From the start of her marriage to the end of his life, the victim, if you can call him a victim, terrorised my client into believing she was in the wrong.’
I wasn’t terrorised. I made a choice. Martha thought, not able to stop the commentary in her mind. I could have let him kill me, but I killed him instead.
Once her defence finished, Martha beheld the judge.
Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.
If she willed it hard enough then the right verdict could be reached.
‘You have heard both sides of the argument in the case against Martha Whitman. I would like you to assess the evidence you have heard and seen. It is important that you take time in your discussions. Make an informed decision on all the facts. I am aware that this case has caused varying impressions on all of you, but you must convict or not convict on the facts of the case alone.’ As the jury left in single file through the wooden door behind them, Martha hoped that they would give the guilty verdict she deserved.