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Chapter 32: The Second Trial - The Surprise Witness

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Manage episode 319396046 series 2943846
Indhold leveret af John W. Berresford. Alt podcastindhold inklusive episoder, grafik og podcastbeskrivelser uploades og leveres direkte af John W. Berresford eller deres podcastplatformspartner. Hvis du mener, at nogen bruger dit ophavsretligt beskyttede værk uden din tilladelse, kan du følge processen beskrevet her https://da.player.fm/legal.

Edith Murray

This is a short podcast, describing a last-minute rebuttal witness for The Prosecution. Into court came a black woman named Edith Murray. Alistair Cooke (at 299) found her “lively.” She testified that, at times in 1935 and 1936, she had been the household servant (cleaning and cooking) for Whittaker and Esther Chambers. She knew them as the Cantwells and was told that Mr. Cantwell was home so seldom because he was a traveling salesman. The Cantwells, Mrs. Murray testified, had no social life except for one young white married couple from Washington whose female half she knew as “Miss Priscilla.” Guess who Mrs. Murray pointed at when she was asked if the young couple was in the courtroom. Some problems with her came out on cross-examination. But her testimony, if believed, showed the kind of close relationship between the families that the Chamberses alleged and the Hisses denied. Most damaging to Hiss, Mrs. Murray remembered Miss Priscilla staying overnight in the Chamberses’ apartment (in a seedy part of Baltimore) taking care of their baby when both Whittaker and Esther Chambers had to be elsewhere. How many people would you do that for? Also, this overnighter occurred in 1936, long after the Hisses swore they had got the deadbeat Chamberses/Crosleys out of their lives. Thus, the major testimonies at the second trial end on a bad note for Hiss. FURTHER RESEARCH: Remarkably, the pro-Hiss book by John Chabot Smith does not mention Mrs. Murray. Hiss, in his book “In the Court of Public Opinion,” (at 313-17, 325-26, 328, 334, 344, 366, 385-87, 396-97) mentions her at length, alleging unfair surprise, heavy-handed coaching by the FBI, and evidence against her that he didn’t have time to gather and present to the second jury. Weinstein describes Mrs. Murray’s testimony at 504. Alistair Cooke writes that, when Mrs. Murray, on the witness stand, recalled both Hisses visiting the Chamberses in the latter’s Baltimore apartment, she chuckled at the contrast between the two couples, presumably because the elegant Hisses were slumming. “And of course I could see the difference of the two couples, and right away I take notice . . . And when I see him I seen the difference in the two of them, and naturally I noticed.”(Cooke at 299, Second Trial at 4415.) Chambers (at 358-59, 393-94) describes a long and very friendly relationship between his family and Mrs. Murray. Interesting to me is Chambers’ unease (at 357-58) at an underground Communist family hiring a household servant. But almost every white family in Baltimore had one in those days, Chambers writes, and we decided that Mrs. Murray’s cleaning and cooking made her a worker as dignified and worthy as any man on a factory assembly line. The Chamberses paid her more than most whites paid their black help and, after she made dinner for the family in the evenings, Mrs. Murray sat at the table with them and had dinner with them as one of the family. To Chambers (at 358), the Communist requirement that blacks be treated as equals shows “the impact of Communism wherever it coincides with humanity and compassion, especially when the outside world denies them.” All human beings who work, even black servants, have human dignity. “Thus, by insisting on acting as Communists must, we found ourselves unwittingly acting as Christians should. I submit that this cuts to the heart of one aspect of the Communist appeal.” Equally interesting is the story of how the FBI found Mrs. Murray 12 years after she stopped working for the Chamberses. The Chamberses remembered her working for them, but recalled only her first name. Searches for “Edith” at all the Baltimore employment agencies for servants and in the Chamberses’ old neighborhood proved fruitless. Then Mrs. Chambers found in the attic a miniature portrait that she had painted of Mrs. Murray. The FBI made many photocopies of it and FBI agents fanned out into Baltimore’s black ghetto and asked people if they knew about the person in the miniature. Eventually, someone recognized Mrs. Murray and the FBI found her alive and well. She was delighted to be brought back in touch with The Cantwells because they had treated her so well and she liked the idea of working for them again. (Chambers at 359; Cooke at 300; Weinstein at 161-62; FBI FOIA Documents, https://archive.org/details/foia_Hiss_Alger-Whittaker_Chambers-NYC-53/page/n251/mode/2up?view=theater circa page 250.) This is one of several instances in this Case where the marvelous work of the FBI agents in the field contrasts to the ham-handed activities of J. Edgar Hoover (described in Podcast #37). Questions: Do you believe Mrs. Murray? If she is making it all up, her just-quoted recollections and those of the Chamberses, Mrs. Chambers’ miniature painting, and all the FBI FOIA documents (first made public in the 1970s) must have been fabricated in the 1940s. How likely is that? Assuming that Mrs. Murray is telling the truth, could the nice young white lady from Washington she remembered as “Miss Priscilla” be anyone other than Priscilla Hiss? On the whole, do you think the three witnesses who testified at the second trial but not the first helped The Prosecution or The Defense? If you had been one of the four members of the first jury who voted Not Guilty because you just didn’t believe Chambers, would the three new witnesses at the second trial have given The Prosecution enough new support to change your vote?

  continue reading

38 episoder

Artwork
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Manage episode 319396046 series 2943846
Indhold leveret af John W. Berresford. Alt podcastindhold inklusive episoder, grafik og podcastbeskrivelser uploades og leveres direkte af John W. Berresford eller deres podcastplatformspartner. Hvis du mener, at nogen bruger dit ophavsretligt beskyttede værk uden din tilladelse, kan du følge processen beskrevet her https://da.player.fm/legal.

Edith Murray

This is a short podcast, describing a last-minute rebuttal witness for The Prosecution. Into court came a black woman named Edith Murray. Alistair Cooke (at 299) found her “lively.” She testified that, at times in 1935 and 1936, she had been the household servant (cleaning and cooking) for Whittaker and Esther Chambers. She knew them as the Cantwells and was told that Mr. Cantwell was home so seldom because he was a traveling salesman. The Cantwells, Mrs. Murray testified, had no social life except for one young white married couple from Washington whose female half she knew as “Miss Priscilla.” Guess who Mrs. Murray pointed at when she was asked if the young couple was in the courtroom. Some problems with her came out on cross-examination. But her testimony, if believed, showed the kind of close relationship between the families that the Chamberses alleged and the Hisses denied. Most damaging to Hiss, Mrs. Murray remembered Miss Priscilla staying overnight in the Chamberses’ apartment (in a seedy part of Baltimore) taking care of their baby when both Whittaker and Esther Chambers had to be elsewhere. How many people would you do that for? Also, this overnighter occurred in 1936, long after the Hisses swore they had got the deadbeat Chamberses/Crosleys out of their lives. Thus, the major testimonies at the second trial end on a bad note for Hiss. FURTHER RESEARCH: Remarkably, the pro-Hiss book by John Chabot Smith does not mention Mrs. Murray. Hiss, in his book “In the Court of Public Opinion,” (at 313-17, 325-26, 328, 334, 344, 366, 385-87, 396-97) mentions her at length, alleging unfair surprise, heavy-handed coaching by the FBI, and evidence against her that he didn’t have time to gather and present to the second jury. Weinstein describes Mrs. Murray’s testimony at 504. Alistair Cooke writes that, when Mrs. Murray, on the witness stand, recalled both Hisses visiting the Chamberses in the latter’s Baltimore apartment, she chuckled at the contrast between the two couples, presumably because the elegant Hisses were slumming. “And of course I could see the difference of the two couples, and right away I take notice . . . And when I see him I seen the difference in the two of them, and naturally I noticed.”(Cooke at 299, Second Trial at 4415.) Chambers (at 358-59, 393-94) describes a long and very friendly relationship between his family and Mrs. Murray. Interesting to me is Chambers’ unease (at 357-58) at an underground Communist family hiring a household servant. But almost every white family in Baltimore had one in those days, Chambers writes, and we decided that Mrs. Murray’s cleaning and cooking made her a worker as dignified and worthy as any man on a factory assembly line. The Chamberses paid her more than most whites paid their black help and, after she made dinner for the family in the evenings, Mrs. Murray sat at the table with them and had dinner with them as one of the family. To Chambers (at 358), the Communist requirement that blacks be treated as equals shows “the impact of Communism wherever it coincides with humanity and compassion, especially when the outside world denies them.” All human beings who work, even black servants, have human dignity. “Thus, by insisting on acting as Communists must, we found ourselves unwittingly acting as Christians should. I submit that this cuts to the heart of one aspect of the Communist appeal.” Equally interesting is the story of how the FBI found Mrs. Murray 12 years after she stopped working for the Chamberses. The Chamberses remembered her working for them, but recalled only her first name. Searches for “Edith” at all the Baltimore employment agencies for servants and in the Chamberses’ old neighborhood proved fruitless. Then Mrs. Chambers found in the attic a miniature portrait that she had painted of Mrs. Murray. The FBI made many photocopies of it and FBI agents fanned out into Baltimore’s black ghetto and asked people if they knew about the person in the miniature. Eventually, someone recognized Mrs. Murray and the FBI found her alive and well. She was delighted to be brought back in touch with The Cantwells because they had treated her so well and she liked the idea of working for them again. (Chambers at 359; Cooke at 300; Weinstein at 161-62; FBI FOIA Documents, https://archive.org/details/foia_Hiss_Alger-Whittaker_Chambers-NYC-53/page/n251/mode/2up?view=theater circa page 250.) This is one of several instances in this Case where the marvelous work of the FBI agents in the field contrasts to the ham-handed activities of J. Edgar Hoover (described in Podcast #37). Questions: Do you believe Mrs. Murray? If she is making it all up, her just-quoted recollections and those of the Chamberses, Mrs. Chambers’ miniature painting, and all the FBI FOIA documents (first made public in the 1970s) must have been fabricated in the 1940s. How likely is that? Assuming that Mrs. Murray is telling the truth, could the nice young white lady from Washington she remembered as “Miss Priscilla” be anyone other than Priscilla Hiss? On the whole, do you think the three witnesses who testified at the second trial but not the first helped The Prosecution or The Defense? If you had been one of the four members of the first jury who voted Not Guilty because you just didn’t believe Chambers, would the three new witnesses at the second trial have given The Prosecution enough new support to change your vote?

  continue reading

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