A Most Unusual Trial


Emma Love established her competence by defending herself in court today.

Here is what happened in Justice Keenen's Police Court on a warm day in July, 1885.


Mrs Emmett Love was defending on 2 counts of "disorderly conduct".  Her next door neighbor, Bill Leduc, a French shoemaker was a huge man.

Mrs Love's husband was a willow-thin meek man.  Mrs Love was pugnacious and fat.

She had rented the house from Mr Leduc for $5 a month.  Madam Leduc was Swedish and also rail thin.   Both women argued about the rent money.  They also had argued who owned a wooden bucket, two wooden picture frames, and one ordinary lamp worth 75 cents,  

It started when Mr Leduc charged into the Love house closely followed by his wife.  There were angry words, a scuffle, and the police were called.  They arrested Mrs Love charging her with disorderly conduct.


First the court heard the usual lot of picturesque drunkard cases.  Next came the Love vs Leduc trial.

Emma announced she would defend herself.  She had taken her position at the council table right opposite the witness stand and the prosecuting counsel just smiled disapprovingly.

The first witness called was William Leduc, the original signer of the complaint.

A scornful "omphump" escape the scornful prosecuting attorney.  Bill Leduc took all 300 pounds, sat in the witness chair.  His thick neck supporting a great round head was covered with light, stubby hair.  The close cut exposed his bald scalp.    On his face were a pair of steel-rimmed spectacles.

The prosecuting attorney drew damaging statements from Mr Leduc.    Emma emitted snorts of disapproval coming from a black feather boa she wore.   It rose and fell as she heaved each laborious breath.

"All I was saying". drawled the witness in his soft, slurring speech, "I heard that Mrs Loves going to...."

"I object, Judge, yur honur." "I objects on th' grounds that whut the witness heered aint' nothin' to do with the case."   Emma peched her gold rimmed glasses higher on her nose and glared fiercely at Judge Keenan. The right corner of her mouth dropped low waiting for the judge to speak....

"Objection sustained" said the judge.

"You say this was on the 11th day of April?" continued the prosecuting attorney. "Now on the 24th day of April what -"

"I object agin' yuh honor."  "What took place on the twety-furth day hov Aprile is 'tirely anotheh matteh."  "Yessuh, I objects!"

Emma was on her feet now, her eyes flashing, her cambrie umbrella pointing straight at the judge, and the puffs of her Mother Hubbard waist lending to her menacing figure exhibiting a most absurdly hump-backed appearance.

The crowd seating in the court was now laughing.

Emma wheeled on them suddenly.

"Let thar be silence in th' court room!"  she thundered.

The people in the benches shouted approval and the judge tried to suppress a laugh that had been struggling for 5 minutes to escape the judge's mouth.    His beard hid a smirk, covering all over his face.  When he regained his voice once more, he said again....

"Objection sustained."  and he induced Emma to sit down.

The prosecutor next called another unusual witness.  He was a foreign-looking individual with shifty eyes and a vacant face hiding a slight smile.

Emma promptly came to the from with an excited

"hobjection to this heah man testifying 'tall yeh hunor!'

But the court couldn't stand this and Emma accepted her first defeat.

But she made that shifty-eyed foreigner wish the objection had been sustained.  She let him go on until the prosecuting attorney was done questioning him.

Then she said "oomph" and mumbled something beneath her breath that sounded like "liar" and waded in.

 "Mistah man I gwine ax yuh!"  "Hisn't it a fac that yo cum to mah house  three or fo times tryin yo has to git me to sweahs out a warrant gainst this here Mr L Doak so's yu cud git yo'se'f called as a witness, an git yur witness fees?"  "Isn'd that a fac?"  "Now ansah me!'

The witness looked helplessly at the judge.  All the people on the court benched leaned forward, eager to see the results.

"Mrs Love has a right to ask you questions, and you must answer."

The witness squirmed, twisted ,and finally denied.

"O-o-o m-p" came from the depths of the feather boa on her chest.

"Ah-m fo'ty-two yeahs old."  "But I never did heah sech doings as that."

Emma was clearly and thoroughly disgusted.

She had Leduc recalled.   She put him through another series of questions, trying to extort the French shoemakers admission that he and his wife had held regular sessions of training in their house, preparing for this trial.  All were doggedly denied.

Then Emma's husband was called.  He spoke with a quaver in his thick voice.   He was a pretty good witness and Emma smiled triumphantly as he stepped down.

The prosecuting attorney presented his summary,.  Emma waived argument.  The judge bent his head in thought.  Emma stared hard at him as she rocked back and forth.

The feather boa rose and fell rhythmically.

"I aint sure who is and who aint'.  said the judge. with a smirk on his face using the uncouth verbage.

"This court has never heard a case like this one presented by any defendant."

But I aim to rule for Mrs Love."  

"She has done a splendid job of defending herself in my court."  proclaimed Judge Keenen.

And the case ended as quickly as it had started and with the surprise ending of acquital.

Mrs Love flung her well-worn boa over her shoulders and strutted out of the courtroom, her toothpick husband following....


July 9, 1885  


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