Source: Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: letter to the editor
Document title: “The Czolgosz Trial: A Unique Event”
Author(s): Mills, Charles K.
Date of publication: 19 October 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 16
|Mills, Charles K. “The Czolgosz Trial: A Unique Event.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 19 Oct. 1901 v8n16: pp. 651-52.|
|Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response).|
|Leon Czolgosz; William McKinley; Charles K. Mills.|
“By Charles K. Mills, M. D., of Philadelphia. Professor of Medical Jurisprudence in the University of Pennsylvania” (p. 651).
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 Czolgosz Trial: A Unique Event
The trial of Czolgosz for the murder of President
McKinley is a unique event in medico-legal history. The student of jurisprudence
as well as the average citizen finds much to commend in the manner in which
the assassin was brought to trial, a little more than two weeks after the fatal
shot was fired. In less than two weeks after the death of the President he was
convicted and sentenced. Great harm is done by the postponement of trials for
crimes of violence, by the long drawing out of such trials, and by delays in
the execution of sentence. In this case justice has moved with a celerity with
which the most impatient cannot find fault.
As regards the prosecution, and especially the absence of rhetorical display and the economy of time in the presentation of the case, nothing can be said except in praise.
The only plea that could be made was that of insanity, and in order to meet this issue, if it should arise, competent physicians, including several well-known alienists, were chosen before the trial by the District Attorney and the Bar Association of the county in which the crime was committed to examine into the mental condition of Czolgosz. These physicians after separate examinations unanimously reported that he was sane, and there is no reason in anything which has appeared in connection with the case to doubt the justice of their finding. The dearth of facts, historical or special, regarding the mental condition of the murderer, is a marked feature up to the present in the published annals of the case. The crime was deliberately planned, was carried out with determination, and was said by the murderer to have been committed because of certain opinions which he held. Both previous to the trial and when he was arraigned by the court he pleaded guilty and expressed himself as prepared to receive any punishment that was meted out to him. This is about all that is known of the man and the deed, and in the light of this knowledge that justice was done no right-thinking man can doubt.
A word perhaps might be said as to the manner in which the defence of Czolgosz was conducted. This case is one of historic interest, and hereafter will pass into the literature of medical jurisprudence. Not improbably it will be referred to as a precedent in future trials.
It would seem to the unprejudiced and unimpassioned that an effort might have been made to present to the jury some evidence regarding his mental state. Instead of this his defense merely made a statement to the jury that the accused had been examined by experts and pronounced sane. This is not the usual method, and whether it is the best method will be determined not by the fact that it has met public approval, but by the verdict of time and of future events.
The address of the senior counsel for Czolgosz was of unusual character. It dealt largely with a discussion of the dignity of the law. It was in the main a defence of the defenders, who needed no defence. Only praise is to be given to those who in the face of probable misrepresentation or even of  denunciation take up a line of conduct which is enjoined upon them by duty.
In the light of the facts which are known and of the evidence presented at the trial, Czolgosz was justly convicted, and punishment should follow speedily. Not a single bit of evidence as to his insanity has been produced even in our prolific public prints, but his defence should have been as thorough as it would have been if the crime he committed had not been one which all the world execrated.
CHAS. K. MILLS.