There but for the grace of god go I
August 7, 2018 8:12 AM   Subscribe

Gina Wohlsdorf writes for CrimeReads: Jean Harris was in a seriously embattled position at work, she was addicted to prescription meth, and her boyfriend of a decade and a half was slo-mo dumping her for a twinkie he had on the side. If she’d just outlined all that for the jury (the humiliation, the stress, the drugs) and followed it by saying, very simply, “Then I lost it and shot him,” she’d have been a free woman in a couple of years. This is not even debated, anywhere, in the ridiculously plentiful literature on Jean Harris’s case. But here’s what she said instead...

Jean Harris was the only defendant court sketch artist Ida Libby Dengrove visited in prison, and the only one with whom Dengrove ever portrayed herself in a sketch. “I guess in the Jean Harris case I felt, like every other woman did, ‘there but for the grace of God go I,’” Dengrove said.

You can browse Ida Libby Dengrove's other courtroom sketches online through the University of Virginia Law School's archives, including around one-hundred sketches accompanied by brief write-ups of the relevant case. They're all pretty fantastic, but here are some highlights:

- The Son of Sam murder trial: “[T]he one thing that struck me was his eyes. They didn’t seem to focus on anything ... and he had an ever-so-slight smile.”
- The Trial of John Gotti
- Sid Vicious and his mother
- Fidel Castro’s Girlfriend Accuses Watergate Burglar Frank Sturgis of Threatening Her
- Vietnam Veteran's Class-Action Lawsuit for Exposure to Agent Orange
- Yoko Ono sued over royalties for John Lennon's final albums
- John Hinckley on trial for the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan
- The man who tried to kidnap a girl wearing a wig made of a murder victim's scalp
posted by ChuraChura (8 comments total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
 
And, just as a fun ? aside - the NYU professor in this story is my undergraduate supervisor's supervisor!
posted by ChuraChura at 8:16 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I don’t understand why the author of the first piece doesn’t want to believe Jean’s story and calls her all kinds of names instead. It sounds like a very plausible story. I definitely agree that her lawyer should have done a better job of making her shut up though.
posted by bleep at 8:21 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I find it pretty believable that a jilted lover would shoot her ex, and also be vague even with herself about her motivations. Also: she never attempted to kill herself at the scene, or later. So it does seem more likely she was homicidal than suicidal.

I mean, that's not to say the guy she shot wasn't a POS, but, you know, she was clearly too dangerous to let walk around. Shooting exes is still a crime even if they are assholes.
posted by emjaybee at 9:28 AM on August 7


doesn’t want to believe Jean’s story

Which one?
posted by howfar at 10:20 AM on August 7 [6 favorites]


Dengrove has a definite way with chins.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:37 AM on August 7 [1 favorite]


I don’t understand why the author of the first piece doesn’t want to believe Jean’s story and calls her all kinds of names instead. It sounds like a very plausible story. I definitely agree that her lawyer should have done a better job of making her shut up though.

Gosh, all kinds of names? She's a murderer, how's that for a name.
posted by atrazine at 11:32 AM on August 7


Tarnower prescribed all the meds for Jean Harris. He knew what those drugs would do.
posted by Ideefixe at 2:43 PM on August 7 [3 favorites]


Are there any male 1970's-era murderers of intimate partners that are still household names? They must be much rarer.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 2:45 PM on August 7 [2 favorites]


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