On Evidence: Proving Frye as a Matter of Law, Science, and History

By Lepore, Jill | The Yale Law Journal, January-February 2015 | Go to article overview

On Evidence: Proving Frye as a Matter of Law, Science, and History


Lepore, Jill, The Yale Law Journal


VI. A PSYCHO-LEGAL RESEARCH LABORATORY

In the experimental life of William Moulton Marston, James A. Frye was experiment number six. In preparing Frye's defense, in the spring of 1922, Mattingly and Wood appear to have relied on what they'd learned in their night course on Legal Psychology. And then, on June 10, they brought their professor to the D.C. jail to meet the defendant. (208) Marston asked Frye if he would submit to the use of the lie detector; Frye agreed. (209) (Frye at some point also submitted to an intelligence test, administered by a psychologist from the National Research Council, who determined that Frye's intelligence "was superior to that of the average draft negro.") (210) Frye himself later described Marston's method: "He asked me several questions, none pertaining to the case, then suddenly he launched upon several questions going into every detail of the case. Several days later, I read in the Washington News where he had said I had told the truth." (211) The case was tried by Chief Justice Walter McCoy, the same justice who'd tried Frye for robbery and sentenced him to four years in prison. McCoy, sixty-three, had studied at Harvard Law School in the 1880s, where he was one year ahead of John Henry Wigmore; like Wigmore, McCoy had studied Evidence with Thayer. (212)

A crucial defense for Frye, seemingly, would have been an alibi. Mattingly and Wood, however, appear to have made at best a half-hearted attempt to establish Frye's whereabouts on the night of the murder. (213) Frye maintained that he had been at the home of a woman named Essie Watson in the company of a woman he was dating, named Marion Cox. (214) On July 14, Mattingly and Wood requested a continuance, on the ground that Essie Watson was too ill to appear in court. (215) McCoy denied this request. (216) Instead, Frye's attorneys read a statement from her taken on her deathbed. For reasons never explained, Cox never testified. (Frye later said that she refused.) (217) Mattingly and Wood based their defense on establishing that Frye's confession was a lie, and that, in disavowing it, Frye was telling the truth. (218) The story went like this: Frye, having been arrested on the robbery charge, had been tricked into confessing to murder. He had been assured both by a police detective and by John R. Francis that, if he said he had killed Brown, the robbery charge would be dropped; the murder charge wouldn't stick (because Frye had an alibi); and Frye would receive a portion of the $1,000 reward. (219) The real murderer, Frye said, was Francis. (220)

Defending Frye by arguing that his confession was a lie transformed Frye's case into a case very much like that of Harry Orchard, with Marston as Frye's Munsterberg. Marston must have hoped the case would establish his reputation; he also wanted Wigmore to witness it. All this while, he had continued to correspond with Wigmore. On June 3, Marston sent Wigmore the testimony he had taken from his eighteen students as part of his testimonial experiment.221 222 After Marston visited Frye in jail on June 10, strapped him up to a blood-pressure cuff, and asked him a series of questions, Marston sent Wigmore a clipping of the story in the Washington Daily News

On July 4, 1922, Marston sent Wigmore this clipping from the Washington Daily News. Courtesy of the Northwestern University Archives.

Frye's trial began on July 17. (223) The prosecutor, assistant district attorney Joseph H. Bilbrey, brought to the stand the physicians who had examined the body; Paul Jones, the police detective who had witnessed Frye's confession; and two further witnesses, Julian Jackson and John Robinson, friends of the murder victim, who testified that they had seen Frye at Brown's house on the night of the murder. (224)

On behalf of the defense, Mattingly called Frye, who insisted that "not a word of the confession made ... was true." (225) According to a newspaper report:

   After drinking a glass of water handed him by the bailiff, Frye
   made a statement in which he claimed that on the Wednesday
   following the murder of Dr. … 

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

On Evidence: Proving Frye as a Matter of Law, Science, and History
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.