1914 - New Trial for Mrs. Bessie J. Wakefield
WETHERSFIELD, Conn., April 16. - Mrs. Bessie J. Wakefield was awakened from a sound sleep late to-night and informed by the prison matron that a new trial had been granted to her.
"Is it really true?" she asked. Being reassured, she cried: "Thank the Lord!" Then she broke down, sobbing hysterically.
Mrs. Wakefield and James Plew were sentenced on Nov. 5 last to be hanged for the murder of William Wakefield, the woman's husband. They were sentenced to die on March 4. Plew was hanged on that day in the State prison at Wethersfield. In the case of the woman, an appeal was taken and that acted as a stay of execution.
Plew and Mrs. Wakefield, it was alleged, formed a plot to murder Wakefield so that they could marry. Plew attempted to kill Wakefield at the Wakefield home on June 22 last. This attempt failed. The evidence indicated that later, on a Sunday afternoon, when Plew called he started a dispute with Wakefield, according to a plan that had been arranged by himself and the wife beforehand. The woman and Plew then, the evidence showed, chloroformed Wakefield and Plew dragged him from the house and for several miles into the woods north of Cheshire killing him.
The body was found two weeks later, and Plew and Mrs. Wakefield were arrested. The arrest was brought about after Mrs. Wakefield had confessed to a woman detective that her husband was murdered.
The trial attracted much attention, and pressure was brought to bear on Gov. Baldwin to commute the woman's sentence on the ground that she was a woman and had been influenced by a superior mind. The Governor refused. Then ti was announced that the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association would present a petition for clemency to the State Board of Pardons.
Mrs. O. H. P. Belmont, speaking for the suffragists of this city, said the trial was unfair, in that it was conducted by men who were unable to understand a woman's viewpoint. Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst denounced the Connecticut laws before members of the Connecticut Women's Suffrage Association in Hartford. Mrs. S. Devlin, speaking for the women of Connecticut, asked President Wilson to intercede. Gov. Baldwin had received many thousands of letters from all parts of the United States, interceding for Mrs. Wakefield.
No woman has died on the gallows in Connecticut for more than a century and a quarter.
The New York Times
New York, New York
April 17, 1914
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