Beauty Defense : Femmes Fatales on Trial
by James, Laura







Introduction: The Femme Fataleix
Beulah Annan
1(8)
Elvira Barney
9(8)
Adelaide Bartlett
17(6)
Countess Linda Murri Bonmartini
23(4)
Kitty Byron
27(4)
Florence Carman
31(4)
Jessie Costello
35(6)
Susan Cummings
41(6)
Germaine d'Anglemont
47(2)
Blanca de Saulles
49(6)
Pauline Dubuisson
55(4)
Princess Fahmy
59(4)
Laura Fair
63(4)
Annie George
67(6)
Clara Smith Hamon
73(4)
Alice Hartley
77(4)
Claudine Longet
81(4)
Nellie May Madison
85(4)
Julia Morrison
89(4)
Charlotte Nash Nixon-Nirdlinger
93(8)
Grace V. Nottingham
101(4)
Madalynne Obenchain
105(4)
Beatrice Pace
109(6)
Gertrude Gibson Patterson
115(4)
Nan Patterson
119(8)
Alma Rattenbury
127(4)
Daisy Root
131(4)
Abe Sada
135(4)
Madeline Smith
139(2)
Marguerite Steinheil
141(6)
Vera Stretz
147(6)
Countess Marie O'Rourke Tarnovska
153(16)
Epilogue: The Femme Fatale Lives169(4)
Notes173


Justice is blind, they say, but perhaps not to beauty. In supposedly dispassionate courts of law, attractive women have long avoided punishment, based largely on their looks, for cold-blooded crimes. The Beauty Defense: Femmes Fatales on Trial gathers the true stories of some of the most infamous femmes fatales in criminal history, collected by attorney and true crime historian Laura James.

With cases from 1850 to 1997, these 32 examples span more than a century, across cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic status. But all were so beautiful, as James demonstrates, that they got away with murder.

When Madeline Smith, a Glasgow socialite, tried to end a relationship with one man to date another, her jilted lover proved difficult to shake. She solved the problem, James writes, with arsenic-laced chocolates. And in Warrenton, Virginia, mild-mannered heiress Susan Cummings gunned down her polo-playing boyfriend, Roberto, following a disagreement. While these two women lived in different centuries and on different continents, both of their lawyers argued that they were too beautiful to be killers. And in both cases, the juries bought it.

In telling the stories of Madeline Smith and Susan Cummings-and 30 others-James proves the existence of the so-called Beauty Defense and shines a spotlight on how gender bias has actually benefited femmes fatales and affected legal systems across the world.





Laura James is a true crime author and reviewer whose literary website Clews, devoted to historical true crime, has earned millions of hits. She is an attorney in private practice in Michigan.





Justice is blind, except when it comes to a beautiful woman. For centuries, attractive ladies have utilized their feminine charms to obtain acquittals or reduced sentences for their deadly actions. James details 32 examples of femme fatales thwarting justice, spanning from 1850-1997. In 1924, Beulah Annan's lover decided their relationship was done so she shot him. Annan received flowers and love letters in jail. She was acquitted, her cuckolded husband was left to clean up the blood, and Annan would live on in infamy as the inspiration for Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. The Beauty Defense is not solely an American phenomenon. Celebrated Parisian seductress Marguerite Steinheil was accused of orchestrating the murders of her husband and stepmother in 1908. Steinheil was renowned for her prominent paramours, including French President Felix Faure. Rumors circulated that her powerful libido induced Faure's fatal heart attack. Steinheil's acquittal was met with roaring applause while thousands celebrated outside the courthouse. Through these stories and more, James delivers a sharp-witted deconstruction of gender and the legal system. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.





Justice is blind, except when it comes to a beautiful woman. For centuries, attractive ladies have utilized their feminine charms to obtain acquittals or reduced sentences for their deadly actions. James details 32 examples of femme fatales thwarting justice, spanning from 1850-1997. In 1924, Beulah Annan's lover decided their relationship was done so she shot him. Annan received flowers and love letters in jail. She was acquitted, her cuckolded husband was left to clean up the blood, and Annan would live on in infamy as the inspiration for Roxie Hart in the musical Chicago. The Beauty Defense is not solely an American phenomenon. Celebrated Parisian seductress Marguerite Steinheil was accused of orchestrating the murders of her husband and stepmother in 1908. Steinheil was renowned for her prominent paramours, including French President Felix Faure. Rumors circulated that her powerful libido induced Faure's fatal heart attack. Steinheil's acquittal was met with roaring applause while thousands celebrated outside the courthouse. Through these stories and more, James delivers a sharp-witted deconstruction of gender and the legal system. Copyright 2020 Booklist Reviews.






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