The suicide notes are strong evidence against Bill – Haden’s lack of a note and Bill’s cold-hearted production of the notes before calling a doctor.
This raises a number of issues that will be dealt with below.
1. Would a writer commit suicide without leaving a suicide note? Of all people, it seems probable that a writer would leave a suicide note – although this would be more likely if the suicide was planned. If Haden did kill himself, it was clearly opportunistic: a life that was collapsing around him, a gun on the bedside table, and previous discussions about suicide including his comment to others to ‘do it quietly or do it in a big way and make news of it’. That being the case, the fact that a writer did not leave a suicide note in this particular situation is less troubling than most others.
2. The prosecution included the forged suicide notes as part of the premeditation argument.
Far from supporting the premeditation argument, though, the notes suggest an unthinking spontaneity. If Bill had planned the killing in advance, he would have known from his own correspondence files that Haden often signed his letters with a typed signature. The handwritten signatures provided the strongest indication that the notes were a forgery.
3. If Bill killed Haden, his reason for forging the suicide notes is obvious.
4. If Bill didn’t kill Haden, why did he forge the suicide notes? Bill claimed that he did so because he didn’t want Chubbie to think that he had shot Haden. Considering how obsessively in love with Chubbie he was, it wouldn't be surprising that his first thought was what Chubbie would think. And it wouldn't be surprising that he was less concerned about Haden’s well-being (when the fellow was stupid enough to shoot himself and put Bill into a difficult situation) than he was about protecting himself. This would explain why he tried to get the dying Haden to sign the notes.
5. Carson agreed with this explanation. In his closing argument, he said: ‘I am going to ask you what you would do, or I would do, under such circumstances as this if we were sleeping in a room with a man and had had a fight that night and awakened at 3 o’clock in the morning to find the man shot himself but had not left a note?’ He said that we all might do something as foolish as Bill had done in the shock of the moment. He then cited examples of innocent people who had been convicted (and even executed) because of self-protective acts of a similar foolishness – the provision of a false alibi, for example. Carson said that he had an explanation for the forged notes. ‘I don’t think that Lancaster ever meant for those notes to be seen by anybody but Mrs Miller.’ This notion is substantiated by the fact that Lancaster suggested destroying the notes, not only to Chubbie but in Attorney Huston’s company. He couldn’t very well tell Chubbie why he wanted them destroyed because that would have defeated the purpose of the forgery in the first place.
6. The blood-stained pencil suggests that Bill touched Haden after the shooting. If Bill had blood on his hands before he wrote the suicide notes, it would have got on the notes. So, if he shot Haden and got blood on his hands doing so, he would have had to wipe off his hands before he typed the notes. Why then would he have touched Haden between writing the notes and picking up a pencil unless he was trying to get Haden to sign the notes? And if Haden was conscious enough to sign the notes, then it is unlikely that he would have signed notes suggesting that he was attempting suicide if Bill had shot him.
Bill’s forgery of the suicide notes cannot be considered indisputable evidence that he shot Haden. In fact, it alludes to the opposite.