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Source: Transactions of the State Medical Association of Texas
Source type: book
Document type: article
Document title: “The Plea of Insanity Before Our Courts”
Author(s): Sellers, Robert B. [article]; anonymous [book]
Publisher: State Medical Association of Texas
Place of publication: Austin, Texas
Year of publication: 1903
Pagination: 342-47 (excerpt below includes only pages 342-44)

Sellers, Robert B. “The Plea of Insanity Before Our Courts.” Transactions of the State Medical Association of Texas. Austin: State Medical Association of Texas, 1903: pp. 342-47.
presidential assassinations (comparison); assassins (mental health); Garfield assassination; Leon Czolgosz (mental health); Leon Czolgosz (execution: personal response).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; Charles J. Guiteau; William McKinley.
From title page: Transactions of the State Medical Association of Texas, Thirty-Fifth Annual Session, Held at San Antonio, Texas, April 28th, 29th, 30th, and May 1st, 1903.

“R. B. Sellers, M. D., Comanche, Texas” (p. 342).

“Dr. Robt. B. Sellers, of Comanche, sent a paper entitled ‘The Plea of Insanity in [sic] our Courts.’ The paper was read by caption and referred to the Publishing Committee” (p. 43).


The Plea of Insanity Before Our Courts [excerpt]

     There is a feeling of horror in the minds of all, when an insane man suffers capital punishment, yet there are some very prominent cases in the history of our country where such has been done. Let me call your attention to two, the first being that of Guiteau, the [342][343] assassin of President Garfield. From the press reports of testimony taken in the case, and subsequent facts that have developed, I believe that we must acknowledge that Guiteau’s actions were those of a man suffering from delusional insanity. He had always been considered queer by his friends—he had been in the employment of the government for years, and for some cause he lost his position.
     Though the President was entirely ignorant of such conditions, and probably had never heard of the man till after his discharge, yet this Guiteau had formed the opinion that it was a personal injury and insult which the President was inflicting on him, and under this fixed delusion he shot Mr. Garfield.
     The second case is that of Czolgosz, the murderer of President McKinley.
     In both of these cases the plea of insanity was entered at their trials, but both were declared sane, and executed.
     Let us look for a moment at the last case. In a very able article written by an Eastern physician, and published some months ago in the Arena, it was clearly shown from letters and interviews gathered after his execution that he was suffering from organized delusions, a form of insanity that is incurable and very dangerous. This history shows him to have always been a peculiar boy—shunning the company of people, especially that of girls. He had worked hard for years till his health had broken down; he then became suspicious of his family and friends; he was morose and secretive, had delusions and hallucinations, and would always take his meals alone, especially when certain members of the family were at home. When he went to Chicago, a short time before he killed Mr. McKinley, he became an anarchist, but they were always suspicious of him, and while there he kept to his old habit of eating alone. He then became impressed that it was his duty to kill the President, and thus save his country. He was examined by some of the leading alienists in this country and pronounced sane, yet we must acknowledge that the trial was hasty, the hour a trying one, and that public sentiment was against the man. And still I fully [343][344] believe if he were living today and could undergo a careful examination by the same men, that after a more thorough investigation of his former life and habits, he would be declared insane. I speak of these two cases to show you wherein the law was too hastily executed, through what I believe to be mistakes made by the examining physicians.



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