Source: Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: letter to the editor
Document title: “The Trial of Czolgosz”
Author(s): Graham, George S.
Date of publication: 19 October 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 16
|Graham, George S. “The Trial of Czolgosz.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 19 Oct. 1901 v8n16: p. 649.|
|Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response); Leon Czolgosz (trial: compared with Hadfield trial); Leon Czolgosz (legal defense); Leon Czolgosz (mental health).|
|Leon Czolgosz; Thomas Erskine; James Hadfield; Allan McLane Hamilton; Carlos F. MacDonald [middle initial wrong below].|
For a follow-up letter to the editor by this same author, click here.
For after-the-fact commentary about the author and his letter to the editor (below), click here.
“By George S. Graham, Esq., Former District Attorney of Philadelphia” (p. 649).
The document below is one of six letters to the editor appearing in this issue of the journal, all of which are grouped under the collective heading “A Symposium on the Czolgosz Case.”
The Trial of Czolgosz
To the Editor of The Philadelphia Medical Journal:
I have read with interest your two editorials in the issue of your paper of October 5th; one on the Czolgosz trial, and the other on Erskine’s defence of Hadfield. Erskine is deserving of all your praise. Likewise, if the fact be true that the counsel for Czolgosz believed him to be insane, and so expressed themselves, and could have produced evidence tending to show insanity, then your criticism of them is equally just and your temperate comment fully justified.
I have not, myself, seen any published statement of the belief of the prisoner’s counsel in his insanity. From the high standing and character of those gentlemen I would prefer to believe they had not made such statements, without indubitable proof to sustain such a belief.
In every criminal trial the presumtion [sic] of sanity, like that of innocence, stands until the presumption is overcome by evidence. In the trial of Czolgosz there was not a scintilla of evidence upon which to base an argument supporting a theory of insanity. Upon the evidence adduced the verdict of guilty was eminently proper and thoroughly just. So that from the trial itself there was no ground for expressing such a belief as that referred to.
Drs. Allan McLane Hamilton, Carlos T. MacDonald and others who, as alienists, examined the prisoner with the view of ascertaining his mental condition, pronounced him sane. Unless therefore the counsel for the prisoner had or knew of alienists who had come to a contrary opinion, there was no medical testimony on which to base such a view.
If the counsel had medical testimony tending to prove sanity, and did not submit it to the jury, then they were unfaithful to the court, the prisoner and their own oaths as sworn officers of the court. I am sure that this cannot be true, and would infer from the course of the trial that they were powerless to procure such evidence. Under these circumstances they would have no right to present their individual belief of insanity (if they held such a belief) to the jury, and their conduct of the case would be free from criticism for not doing so. The statement of their belief would be inadmissible as evidence, and when unsupported by testimony would be improper as part of the address to the jury. Counsel have no right to address a jury upon views or matters not presented in the evidence or fairly deducible therefrom.
Erskine had a client whose cause had some merit; whose wounds received in his country’s service pleaded for him; and, also, had evidence tending to prove insanity. His eloquent plea on that ground was appropriate and based on proof. There was neither merit nor evidence to sustain such an appeal in the Czolgosz case.
The expression of an individual opinion by counsel after the trial, relative to a belief in the prisoner’s insanity, is a question which addresses itself to the forum of the individual’s conscience and is not debatable as an incident of the trial, and stands outside the pale of medical jurisprudence. The propriety and good taste of such an expression of belief, is alone for the individual. He has the undoubted right to utter it, or leave it unsaid. If the report of the statement by counsel be true, I agree with you that they “have rather spoiled a fine situation by speaking as they did out of court.”
(Note by the Editor:—The statement, after the trial, by the counsel for the assassain [sic] that they believed him to be insane, was published by several newspapers. We have never seen its authenticity denied, nor have we seen a denial by the eminent counsel that they entertained this opinion. We shall be only too happy to correct the statement, if it is spurious).