Publication information
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Source: Medical Notes and Queries
Source type: journal
Document type: public address
Document title: “Insanity as a Defense”
Author(s): Drovin, George Albert
Date of publication: June 1909
Volume number: 4
Issue number: 6
Pagination: 123-25 (excerpt below includes only pages 123-24)

Drovin, George Albert. “Insanity as a Defense.” Medical Notes and Queries June 1909 v4n6: pp. 123-25.
George Albert Drovin (public addresses); insanity (as legal defense); Leon Czolgosz (legal defense).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; Charles J. Guiteau.
The identities of Probst and Holmes (both below) cannot be determined. Possibly they are Anton Probst and H. H. Holmes.


Insanity as a Defense [excerpt]

     There are several reasons why the plea of insanity should not be permitted to save a murderer from his fate, and these reasons are closely allied with those ordinarily advanced in justification of punishment. In the first place, the example afforded by this maudlin leniency is most pernicious. Of the convicted murderers, few come to their deserved end. Insanity, political influence, sentimentality, are the pleas and means of commuting the death sentence into life imprisonment; and the person who is tempted to homicide is not deterred by the thought that there will be but one result to his deed—that his life must atone for the life he is about to take. With the true instinct of the gambler, he weighs the chances and finds the odds in his favor. His insanity makes him all the more reckless, and with one final [123][124] psychologic impulse the deed is done, and the pitiful brute becomes a murderer. How far example has moved him to the commission of the crime would be hard to say; how far the hope of immunity from extreme punishment has urged him on would be difficult to measure. Criminologists tell us that example is a factor, however, and legists tell us that certainty of punishment is a deterrent. If, then, capital punishment is a valuable and effective part of our penal code, it is illogical to discriminate. One murderer is as deserving of death as another, and the value of the punishment is weakened by saving the life of the least worthy. Had not public opinion demanded the deaths of Probst, Guiteau, Holmes, and Czolgosz, the defense could easily have found experts to declare these men insane. You can prove anything by an expert: he is the only witness whom the law permits to testify as to his opinion, and the opinions of men may honestly differ upon the same state of facts. What would have been the effect upon other defectives had these men been permitted to escape death?



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