Guilt, gender, and capital punishment
Author Kate Clifford Larson has had the courage to examine a historical question that still has the power to raise hackles: Was Mary Surratt guilty of conspiracy to murder the president, and if so, should she have been executed. In doing so, she has provided a valuable service in clarifying the evidence and coming down on the side of the courts. Whether or not the Lincoln assassination conspirators should have been tried by a military court is no longer the issue. Larson convincingly shows that Mrs. Surratt was an active participant in Lincoln’s murder. Her age and gender, which caused considerable controversy at the time, should no longer color opinion of the outcome of her trial. Was she guilty? It appears, beyond reasonable doubt, that she was. Should she have been executed? That depends on one’s opinion on the subject of capital punishment. Larson has provided a lively, objective case study based upon available documentation.