Lizzie Borden Case Truths Exposed in 48 Hours Special

48 Hours examines 40 whacks on Lizzie Borden Took an Axe.

Lizzie Borden 48 Hours
Photo: CBS

Everybody knows the story of Lizzie Borden. She’s been the subject of rock operas, movies, and TV shows and one very influential nursery rhyme. CBS’s “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” asks “What if everything told in the past about the famed Lizzie Borden case is wrong?” Erin Moriarty and 48 Hours will investigate the double homicide that captured the nation on Saturday, March 28 at 10 p.m.

The investigative series takes a “fresh look at a very cold case that turns up surprising results” according to the press release. Borden was 32 years old when she was acquitted hacking her father and stepmother to death in 1892. Lizzie became the prime suspect because her sister Emma was out of town and the housekeeper were the only other people in the locked home at the time of the killing. Borden denied having anything to do with the murder but authorities were concerned with her demeanor following the crime.

“When someone is struck multiple times with a hatchet to the head, that’s personal,” crime scene expert Erin Rubas said in the statement.

The case became part of pop culture when kids skipped rope to the rhyme “Lizzie Borden took an axe and gave her mother 40 whacks.” Agnes de Mille danced to it in her 1954 ballet Fall River Legend. Elizabeth Montgomery from Bewitched played the part in the 1975 TV movie The Legend of Lizzie Borden. Christina Ricci did two hatchet jobs: the Lifetime movie Lizzie Borden Took an Ax and 2015’s miniseries The Lizzie Borden Chronicles.

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“Every generation has … that one really terrible case that we don’t have any answers to,” New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner’s criminalist Andrew Schweighardt said in a statement. 

48 Hours will show us what the jury of 12 men saw when the case was presented in court and asks whether they couldn’t believe a woman was capable of murder. Moriarty and 48 Hours will present the case to a jury today to see if they can “separate fact from fable.” Male and female jurors will reexamine the case by hearing the evidence originally presented to 12 men in 1893. Moriarty will also be on the scene while the jury deliberates, in a rare inside look at how people talk their way through the evidence to decide the fate of another human.

The press statement ponders what the jury will find. What if everything we were told was wrong and everything the kids said was true. I want to know what would Lizzie’s parents think.

48 Hours “Lizzie Borden Took an Axe” will air Saturday, March 28 at 10:00 p.m. on CBS.