• [Lizzie Border Writer] Convicted Murderer Wants To Collaborate With Notable Crime Writer -- Archive

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    EDMUND LESTER PEARSON (1880-1937) was an American librarian and author. He was a writer of the true crime literary genre and is best known for his account of the notorious Lizzie Borden murder case.


    Offering five letters, 8 pp total, to and from Pearson, the most interesting involving an early 19th century murder in Maine, known as the B.G. Coburn case.  The trial record had been destroyed by fire in 1904, but apparently the chief witness was himself a convicted murderer, throwing doubt on the integrity of the verdict.


    In one ALS, James Walsh Lewis, who was found guilty of the Coburn murder, writes from Bolivia on February 1925.  He had become familiar with Pearson through his books and is hoping Pearson will write about the case.  Lewis calls the prosecution abominable.  The defendant “had not the slightest clue to connect him with the crime as well as the verdict of the jury...guilty of murder in the 1st degree...The Coburn Murder Case – Gorham, Maine, year 1898-1894 trial...” The case was appealed to the Supreme Court (apparently in Maine).  “Chief witness in 1894 was convicted of an identical crime at adjoining farm 1901, sentenced to life...Attorneys on both sides and judge [in] 1894 trial dead...Many witnesses still alive...I know of the evidence...will collaborate with you...The reason I am so well posted in this matter is because I was the one accused and convicted...I have made a study of it [the case] for 30 years...”


    A typed written carbon of Pearson’s response, dated May 27, 1925, is included. Pearson is interested in the case.  After receiving Lewis’s letter, Pearson writes that he has attempted to get the record.  “I get no information...but merely from the clerk the information that the record of the trial was burned up in a fire in 1904...The fact of the chief witness himself being convicted of a murder strikes me as extremely significant...”


    Lewis responds on August 31, 1925 that he knows someone who has a copy of the trial who will provide a copy to Pearson.  Lewis wants to collaborate with Pearson on a book about the trial.  “It is the trial of all trials on record that shows clearly the incompetence of certain juries as well as the lack of sanctity of an oath among ordinary men. The most significant matter...is that the principal witness was convicted of the murder of the next door neighbor, the murder committed bearing the same brutal earmarks. Last year, he petitioned the governor for a pardon. I felt called on to take a hand...Pardon was refused.” Lewis claims the evidence showed he had an alibi...”


    Lewis was living in Buenos Aires, working for Standard Oil.


    Two other letters are from a prisoner at Mississippi State Penitentiary asking for a free copy of Pearson’s book and later thanking him for sending it.


    Folds, toning, some chipping and fold repairs.


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