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Anna Wiese - The trial

August 5, 2012
Sue Eckhoff - Grundy County Heritage Museum , Reinbeck Courier

Evidence against Emily Bennett was circumstantial, but strong. Her alleged motive was that she believed Anna exerted an immoral influence on her son. There were others who believed that Emily thought her husband Cyrus paid Anna attention.

In early January, defense attorney Obed Caswell announced that he would dig up Anna's body again. A person who helped with this process did discover hair grasped in Anna's hand. It was removed and given to Maurice Ricker for his study. Those that prepared her body for burial swore there was no hair in her hands when she was placed in her coffin. This led to the speculation that Obed Caswell paid someone to dig Anna up, place the hair in her hand and rebury her, for him to dig up again. This meant that her body was exhumed at least four times.

The trial finally began in early April. About 100 people were called for the jury pool and nearly 100 witnesses were subpoenaed. Emily Bennett seemed untroubled by the trial. It was reported in the paper that she never exhibited the least sign of agitation or emotion. She sat very still on a cane bottom chair, facing the court, carefully watching the proceedings without moving her body or head.

Marshall County Attorney James Carney presented the state's case against Emily Bennett. Carney's case was built on the premise that Emily Bennett murdered Anna Wiese because she believed the girl had an undue intimacy with her son and possibly her husband. Carney spelled out a list of specific accusations against Emily Bennett, all he said contributed to Anna's death. In his list he theorized that the night of the murder Emily, knowing that Anna would be at the Hill farm, donned men's clothing, walked northwest through the cow yard, and through a grove (where there were many sticks of the type used to strike Anna), passed through a cornfield and the slough, and hid in the tall grass midway between the Hill and Russie farms. When Anna came along she attacked her.

Add to that the other known facts, and the blood evidence, and again, all pointed to Emily Bennett. Of 17 people living in the area, only Emily's reddish hair matched the hair clasped in Anna's hand in the coffin.

Rumors spread around the county that Emily Bennett would testify in her own defense. Court spectators waited anxiously, but she did not testify.

The defense then presented its case, again presenting a large number of reasons Emily could not have committed the crime. They claimed that Emily was 50 years old and weighed only 120 pounds and was "near broke down" from a lifetime of hard work. He contended the blood stains on the fence were from dehorning cattle, not from the murder. Emily sat in the presence of Anna's body at the Russie home for two hours without any signs of guilt or agitation. She also attended the funeral and acted normal. There was any number of others who could have murdered Anna.

Testimony ended on Saturday April 14. All day Monday, April 16, he prosecution summed up its case, continuing on Tuesday until noon. The defense began its summation and the case went to the jury on Thursday.

The jury deliberated almost 40 hours. The first ballot was seven for acquittal, five for conviction. The next ballot was a tie. The next ballot in was nine for acquittal and three for conviction.

One of the jurors collapsed while the jurors were eating breakfast. His pain was such that he could not continue to serve. Because of this and the failure of the jury to reach a verdict, the jury was dismissed.

Next week A Second Trial.



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