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CSI: Aurora vs. Lizzie Borden

Multi-disciplinary exercise

A classic ‘Whodunnit?’ received a modern treatment when the historic Lizzie Borden case was revisited for the third installment of the multidisciplinary exercise, “CSI: Aurora" in March and April.

Borden was tried and acquitted of the 1892 axe murders of her father and stepmother in Fall River, Mass., in a case that still has amateur sleuths asking questions more than a century later. CCA students and faculty joined the fact-finding hunt by recreating the story. A brutal ‘crime scene’ at the historic period home Centennial House in Aurora was the first step. A mock trial ended the exercise.

“We wanted to see if we could come up with a different outcome,” said Elizabeth Hirsh, Anthropology faculty and one of the organizers of the curriculum. It didn’t. The 2014 verdict was Borden, not guilty, again.

Hirsh said choosing the subject matter was a collaborative effort between herself and the other supervising faculty, including Lt. Tim Dufour, Gary Scott and Margaret Uchner.  “We knew that one of the CSI scenarios for the grant would include a historical case. We consulted with (faculty member and historian) Geoff Hunt, and this was one he was really passionate about, and it was one we were really interested in, as well. There has been recent renewed interest in the case, with a couple news articles that came out. That helped us reconnect with the case.”

A female being accused not only of committing heinous acts, but against her family, no less, is a key reason the Borden case and trial still resonates. It was outright scandalous back in its day. No one, including the jury, wanted to believe the possibilities. Borden was present at the time of the murders but there were no witnesses to the crime. Much of the evidence was circumstantial. But even modern forensics couldn’t nail Borden.

Among the classes taking part were Anthropology, Biology, Criminal Justice, History, Paralegal, and Theatre. Skeletal analysis, a forensic survey, DNA analysis, crime scene recovery and investigation, historical analysis of artifacts, preparation of court documents, and interviewing of experts and witnesses were among the tasks completed in the game-based and immersive learning exercise, which was funded by a Colorado Community College System grant.
Two more scenarios already have been written for future CSI rollouts in future years.

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