In 1914, Cynthia Buffum had written to friends that her attorneys would have a surprise to spring in her plea this summer for a new trial before the court of appeals. The woman had frequent conferences with members of her family in the death house at Auburn and her letters were full of confidence in the new turn of events. It was generally assumed that the surprise to be sprung lay in searching medical and genealogical history on Willis Buffum, the convicted woman's late husband. She had been found guilty of administering arsenic to him in his medicine and in his food. A bomb had been dropped into the prosecution during the trial that Willis Buffum had for years threatened his life, his wife's and his childrens'. On that, the defense sought to raise doubt whether the man had not committed suicide.