Emily is not guilty of murder, and there are specific reasons why the jury should find her not guilty in a trial setting. The state has the burden of proving its case, and in order to win a conviction, it must convince the jury that Emily committed the crime, with the requisite mindset, beyond a reasonable doubt. While it is true that Emily might have been a recluse, and there does exist some circumstantial evidence, there is no legitimate evidence that extends beyond a reasonable doubt.
There are a few primary pieces of evidence that the prosecution may use to impeach Emily’s reputation and to try to cast the shadow of guilt upon her. First, the prosecution would point to the fact that she purchased arsenic. They would call to the stand the person who saw her purchase it. Likewise, they would call to the stand the person in the story who last sees Homer going into Emily’s house. They may also call to the stand the cousins, who do not have a good relationship with Emily and would likely speak to her mental state during the months before the death.
The state’s case would try to prove the point by piecing together a number of different items of circumstantial evidence in hopes that the jury will then use the weight of all of the combined evidence to convict. They will rely heavily on the fact the Emily did not call to report the death of Homer. This will, according to their theory, necessitate her guilt.
One of the primary goals of a defense attorney is not to go on the attack, but rather, to minimize whatever evidence the state presents. In this case, the goal will be to mitigate the effect of the evidence of Emily choosing not to report Homer’s death. This will be the time when Emily’s mental state will come into play. Because the state’s case is not necessarily strong, it makes no sense to plead insanity, admitting the murder. Rather, a good defense attorney will simply say that Emily had been in a bad way since the death of her father. She was a woman who grew up in the stereotypical Southern role. They had money, and she was used to having influence. She saw her way of life slipping away, and she had been left previously by a man. She did not report the death of Homer because she wanted to stay beside his body for as long as possible. I would introduce into evidence the strand of Emily’s hair found near Homer’s body. This would help to show that she felt closeness to him, a fact that would both make it less likely for her to kill him and more likely for her to have a non-criminal reason for not reporting the death. This would have to be a thin line to walk, however, because evidence of her mental instability could poison the jury’s opinion of her.
I would argue that the fact that she purchased arsenic proves nothing. I might call to the stand any number of town’s people who would testify that they thought she was buying the arsenic to poison herself. Likewise, I would argue that just because Homer was in her house, and just because she had the opportunity to use arsenic does not mean she actually did so. The state’s job is to do more than just create a case for the environment where a crime could have taken place. Its job is to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Emily committed the crime. Given the evidence the state has, they would not be able to satisfy this lofty burden.
- Faulkner, William, John Carradine, and Anjelica Huston. A rose for Emily. Verlag F. Schöningh, 1958.