Publication information
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Source: American Journal of Insanity
Source type: journal
Document type: editorial
Document title: “Proceedings in the Czolgosz Case”
Author(s): anonymous
Date of publication: October 1901
Volume number: 58
Issue number: 2
Pagination: 315-17

“Proceedings in the Czolgosz Case.” American Journal of Insanity Oct. 1901 v58n2: pp. 315-17.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (trial); Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response); Leon Czolgosz (mental health); Leon Czolgosz (psychiatric examination); Leon Czolgosz (medical condition).
Named persons
Floyd S. Crego; Leon Czolgosz; Joseph Fowler; Charles J. Guiteau; Arthur W. Hurd; Carlos F. MacDonald; William McKinley; James W. Putnam.


Proceedings in the Czolgosz Case

     The people of the United States are to be congratulated upon the good sense and decorum which marked all proceedings connected with the trial of the assassin of President McKinley. With a sickening recollection of the painful and disgraceful scenes attending the trial of Guiteau, it was not strange that many persons feared a repetition of similar scenes at Buffalo. That these were avoided and a speedy and orderly trial of the wretched prisoner was secured seems to have been due in great measure to the good judgment and sagacious activity of the Bar Association of Buffalo, a body which recognized the danger and promptly took measures to prevent it. When it became evident that the prisoner would make no effort to procure legal assistance, this association, through its officers, to prevent the appearance upon the scene of shyster lawyers or police court practitioners, arranged that two ex-justices of the Supreme Court of New York should be assigned to defend him. These were high-minded and conscientious men who did all that justice to the misguided offender required to be done. They were immediately confronted with the possibility that Czolgosz might be insane and irresponsible on this ground, and it became all-important to determine his mental condition. It was accordingly arranged by the prisoner’s counsel in consultation with the representatives of the Bar Association that two experts should be asked to examine the prisoner and to report upon his mental condition. Accordingly, Dr. Carlos F. MacDonald, of New York, former president of the State Commission in Lunacy, and Dr. Arthur W. Hurd, of the Buffalo State Hospital, were summoned to examine Czolgosz and to report upon his mental condition for the information of those who had been charged to conduct his defense. If these gentlemen pronounced the prisoner insane, it became the duty of the defense to summon witnesses and to provide for an [315][316] inquiry into his mental condition. Every facility was afforded to the expert physicians to make an examination of the prisoner, and most conscientiously and carefully was the duty performed. The prisoner was seen several times and his condition was thoroughly investigated. Although he remained entirely mute and was unwilling to say a single word to his examiners, he complied readily with all requests as to walking, closing his eyes, assuming bodily positions to facilitate the examination, etc., and by his actions showed that he comprehended everything which was said. He was physically well and gave no consistent symptom of mental disorder. The experts, in behalf of the defense, had consequently no difficulty in joining with Drs. Putnam, Crego and Fowler, of Buffalo, who had seen the prisoner at the time of the shooting and subsequently at various times, in signing a document to the effect that he was not insane and irresponsible. On the following day the voluntary character of his mutism was shown by his plea before the court and subsequently by his interviews with the priest and officials in Auburn prison. This document was accepted by the defense as settling the question of Czolgosz’s mental condition, and subsequently upon the trial no evidence for or against his sanity was introduced. The criticism has been made that expert evidence as to the sanity of the prisoner ought to have been introduced in order that the record might be complete, but to this it has very properly been replied that in the absence of any allegation of insanity and irresponsibility it would be irrelevant to give testimony to show the sanity of one accused of crime. Dr. Putnam, one of the physicians who had previously examined him, has stated in the Philadelphia Medical Journal that Czolgosz did not at any time sham insanity; that although he refused to discuss his crime with his lawyers he did discuss it with others; that in conversation and appearance he was more intelligent than the average Polish laborer; and that physical examination showed his pulse 82, temperature 98½°, tongue clean, skin clear, patellar reflexes normal and heart normal—a record of excellent health. In the light of these statements, it would have been a waste of time to present expert testimony to show the absence of mental disease. The burden of responsibility assumed by the experts who examined the prisoner on behalf of the defense was a heavy one, and we [316][317] cannot but congratulate them that their duty in the case proved so plain. Had it proven otherwise, we know that equally conscientious testimony would have been given upon the side of the prisoner. It is to the credit of American psychiatry that the decision of well-known experts in insanity was accepted as conclusive. We hope that in similar cases in future we may have an equally unanimous acceptance of the verdict of competent experts.



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