JUSTICE has come a long way. Take this item, which...

Salmagundi

September 29, 1992

JUSTICE has come a long way. Take this item, which appeared in a local newspaper 100 years ago:

A Young Woman to Have Her Head and Hand Cut Off.

Rigor of Russian Criminal Laws.

"St. Petersburg, Sept. 22 -- In April last Mrs. Aina Sainio, the wife of a professor in the state college of Tavastehuus, Finland, was found guilty of poisoning her husband, and in accordance with the medieval law which is still in force there, she was sentenced to be beheaded and her body affixed to a beacon and burned.

"Mrs. Sainio is only about twenty-two years old. She married the professor in 1890 and has one child. She appeared to live happily with her husband, and for a considerable time the police were at a loss to account for the poisoning of the professor. Finally Mrs. Sainio made a confession. She said she had bought a strychnine capsule, similar to the capsules containing quinine that her husband was in the habit of taking. For days she hesitated to administer the poison to him, but one day when her husband asked her for some quinine she gave him the strychnine. She then kissed him and went to her bedroom and put pillows over her head so she would not hear his screams while he was dying. It was charged that Mrs. Sainio had been friendly with one of the students at the college. She strenuously denied this and claimed that her motive in killing her husband was to get the insurance of $2,500 on his life. . .

"After her conviction the case was carried to the Court of Appeal, and today a decision was handed down affirming the judgement of the Trial Court and added to the punishment to be inflicted on the unfortunate woman.

"It transpired during the trial that Mrs. Sainio had forged her husband's name to small sums. . . and for this offense the Court of Appeal ordered her right hand be cut off. Then she will be decapitated and her body fastened to a stake, covered with inflammable material and set on fire. The sentence is a most terrible one and it is thought that efforts will be made to get the czar to commute it.

"All information that has been gathered about Mrs. Sainio seems to confirm the view that she is a spoiled child and never has been able to take life in earnest. She has never been moved by any great passions, but has always been taken up with the thought as to how she could amuse herself in a childlike fashion. In order to satisfy her great desire for sweets -- with which, by the way, her husband supplied her liberally -- she stole and deceived. . .

"A writer in Hufvudstadsbiad, the leading paper of Finland, tries to prove Mrs. Sainio belongs to the class of people called by anthropologists delicti del nato, or having a natural predisposition for crime. She is said to have all the characteristics of a poisoner. Her head is unusually large and her forehead greatly developed. The jaws, on the other hand, are small. She was never handsome, but her liveliness made her attractive."

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