Wednesday, June 12, 2024

June 12, 1874

Rosetta Jackson, around 18 years of age, lived as a servant with a married sister, Lizzie Flagg. Lizzie's husband, William H. Flagg, was a barber with a shop on West Lake Street. 

The family were originally from New York. Lizzie had moved to Chicago around 1868. Rosetta had first lived with another sister, Mrs. Otis, where she worked and was paid as a servant before moving in with Lizzie and William about a year before the fatal abortion. At that time Rosetta began attending Western Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, and became known to the pastor and a couple named Watson. Rosetta was considered to be "a modest, retiring woman." Mr. Watson testified that once, while getting his hair cut, he heard Flagg tell Rosetta that if she want to live with her other sister she could never come into his house again. 

Evidently a liaison took place between Rosetta and her brother-in-law, resulting in a pregnancy that the two wanted to keep secret from Rosetta's sister, who later testified that she had never noticed any untoward behavior of the two towards each other.

An abortion was perpetrated by Dr. Charles Earll, resulting in Rosetta's death on June 12, 1874. Flagg and Earll arranged for a private burial at Graceland Cemetery, but somebody tipped off the authorities, leading to an exhumation and autopsy. The cause of death was detected - injuries to the uterus caused during an abortion. Those injuries had become infected, leading to peritonitis. 

In addition to Earll and Flagg, a woman named Kate Holland was implicated as an accessory because the Rosetta had died in her house. 

Police raided Earll's practice and confiscated abortion instruments, along with a bottle of oil of tansy, a popular herbal abortifacient.  The bottle of tansy was shown to Mrs. Holland, who identified it as a medicine that Rosetta had been taking. 

A fetus was discovered buried in the back hard of Mrs. Holland's house. 

Dr. Defendants in Court

The Chicago Tribune notes that Earll "was dressed in a scrupulously neat manner, and was exceeding calm and collected in his behavior, Betraying little or no anxiety for the fate that may befall him."

The Chicago Tribune noted that the Flaggs "appear[ed] to be reputable people" who tried to avoid public attention as much as possible. 

Mrs. Holland was described as "a shrewd-looing person of uncertain age." Her daughter, Francelia Bullard, was described as having "an innocent-looking appearance."

Lizzie's Testimony

Lizzie said that the last she saw her sister alive was at Mrs. Holland's house on the first Sunday in June. She hadn't know that Rosetta was ailing until after her death. She saw her sister's body at Holland's home.

Francelia's Testimony

Francelia Bullard, Mrs. Holland's daughter, testified that Rosetta had come to stay at her mother's house, giving her name as Alice Hayes. About three days after Rosetta moved in, she and Francelia went for a walk to Dr. Earll's office. Francelia waited while Rosetta went into a private room with Earll for about five minutes. It was about two days after that visit that Rosetta took ill and never recovered. During Rosetta's illness of about nine days, Earll came to the Holland home about 5 or 6 times to attend to her.

Flagg's Testimony

William Flagg denied being the father of Rosetta's baby but did indicate that he had known about the pregnancy and had given Earll $10 to "continue his treatment" of Rosetta. 

The Appeal

Earll was convicted of manslaughter in an abortion death in August of 1874. His attorney appealed for a new trial on the following grounds:

  1. The court admitted improper testimony.
  2. The court refused to admit proper evidence.
  3. The court refused proper instructions asked in behalf of the defendant.
  4. The court gave improper instructions for the people
  5. The verdict is unsupported by the evidence.
  6. On account of misconduct of jurors during the trial, reading of newspapers, ad inattention to the evidence given for the defense. 
The attorney contended that William Flagg should have been corroborated by other witnesses, and that aside from Flagg's testimony there was no evidence that Earll intended to cause Rosetta's death.

The judge noted that if Earll's attorney had noticed misconduct by the jury, it had been his duty to bring it to the court's attention at that time, not hold back for appeal. 


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