100 Years Ago Today: A Coroner’s Jury holds Arbuckle guilty of manslaughter, September 14, 1921

After three days of testimony, including the only time that Maude Delmont took the stand, San Francisco Coroner T. B. W. Leland instructed eight jurors to render a verdict. Doctors who treated Rappe or conducted the autopsy performed on her body testified as did eyewitnesses who attended Roscoe Arbuckle’s Labor Day party.

On the afternoon of September 14, 1921, the jury deliberated for hours and issued the following verdict.

We find that the said Virginia Rappe, female, white, aged about 25 years, single, residence Los Angeles, Cal., nativity unknown, occupation unknown, came to her death on September 9, 1921, at the Wakefield Sanatorium, from rupture of the bladder, contributory cause, acute peritonitis.

And we further find that said Virginia Rappe came to her death from peritonitis caused by a rupture of the urinary bladder. Said rupture was caused by the application of some force which, from the evidence submitted, we believe was applied by one Roscoe Arbuckle. We, the undersigned jurors, therefore charge said Roscoe Arbuckle with the crime of manslaughter.

We, the jury, recommend that the district attorney of San Francisco in conjunction with the grand jury, the chief of police, and the federal probation officials, take steps to prevent the recurrence of affairs similar to the one in which this young woman lost her life, so that San Francisco shall not be made the rendezvous of the debauchee and gangster.

Colbert Coldwell

A. T. Hunter

Eugene Simmons

R. J. Goff

W. Garner Smith

James Ging

W. E. MacPherson

Roscoe Arbuckle sharing some make-up with Lila Lee, 1921 (Library of Congress)

An eighth juror, Ben Boas, a bond broker, provided a minority verdict that agreed with his fellow jurors on all points save that “from the evidence submitted I am unable to determine who was responsible for the application of said force.” Eventually, his minority opinion would become the majority in subsequent venues of the Arbuckle case.

Source: “Manslaughter Charged against Arbuckle by Coroner’s Jury,” San Francisco Examiner, 15 September 1921, 1.

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