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Elizabeth, Murder in 1845



You have been indicted, tried and convicted for the murder of your late husband, John Van Valkenburgh: have you anything to say to the court why the judgment of death should not be pronounced against you according to law.

The facts disclosed upon you trial establish a case of cruel and aggravated murder. Your husband had been sick during a portion of the last winter, but had so far recovered from his disease as to need no further medical treatment. On the 10th of March last, he was seen by his physician, who pronounced him well. On that day you procured a quantity of arsenic and administered portions of it to him, which caused his death on the 18th of March. Although the testimony in relation to some parts of the case was circumstantial, it was nevertheless of such a character as to lead the minds of the Jury to the undoubting belief of your guilt; and their verdict meets the approval of the Court.

Your trial has been conducted with deliberation, caution and fairness; --you had an intelligent and impartial jury of your own selection. -- The prosecution, though conducted with ability, has been marked with tenderness and candor and you have been defended by ingenious and able counsel. The Court also has given you the benefit of every doubtful question, and yet, under all these circumstances, you have been found guilty.

Before performing the last painful duty which remains to the Court, I Have a few words to address you. You have been guilty of an act which by the laws of our country, and of nearly all nations is punishable with death. The law of nature and the law of God sanction this punishment for such a crime. It is not on the principle of revenge, nor even of expiation that this punishment is inflicted. The life of the murderer is forfeited by the law, in order that murders may not be perpetrated.

Had the death of your husband been occasioned by an adversary in an open struggle, the mind, however it might condemn the act, would find some alleviation, in the provocation, in the motive, or in the equality of the combat. But death by poison clandestinely administered, is, of all others the most revolting. It takes its victim when unprepared for resistance. The enormity of the crime is increased in this case by the relation which you bore to the deceased. He was the husband whom you had promised to love, to cherish, and to obey. He was the father of your children, whom you have thus deprived of their natural protector, by an act, which in its consequences must soon bring them to an untimely orphanage.

If, even in this world, there is a connection between guilt and suffering -- if even in human society we find that the way of the transgressor is hard; what may we not expect in the retributions which await us beyond the grave. We are assured there is a time coming when we must all appear before a judge whose all seeing eye can penetrate the secret recesses of every heart, and whose justice as well as mercy is co-extensive with his works.

Yours is not a case in which the court can advise the exercise of executive clemency. Let me admonish you to prepare for the change that now awaits you. Call to your aid the ministers of our religion. Look back upon your past life and repent. Look to God for forgiveness through the merits of a Saviour.

Now listen to the judgment of the law, which is that you, ELIZABETH VAN VALKENBURGH, be taken from this place to the common jail of this county, and that you be there kept in safe and secure custody until SATURDAY THE TWENTY-FOURTHDAY OF JANUARY NEXT, between the hours of TEN A.M. and FOUR P.M. you be hanged by the neck until you are dead -- and may God Almighty have mercy on your soul.  

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