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Source: Philadelphia Medical Journal
Source type: journal
Document type: letter to the editor
Document title: “Some Remarkable Features”
Author(s): Sinkler, Wharton
Date of publication: 19 October 1901
Volume number: 8
Issue number: 16
Pagination: 652

Sinkler, Wharton. “Some Remarkable Features.” Philadelphia Medical Journal 19 Oct. 1901 v8n16: p. 652.
full text
Leon Czolgosz (trial: compared with Guiteau trial); Leon Czolgosz (trial: personal response).
Named persons
Leon Czolgosz; James A. Garfield; Charles J. Guiteau.
“By Wharton Sinkler, M. D., of Philadelphia. Physician to the Orthopedic Hospital and Infirmary for Nervous Diseases” (p. 652).

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.”


Some Remarkable Features

To the Editor of the Philadelphia Medical Journal:
     To one who has observed the course of the trial of Czolgosz for the horrible crime which he committed, several remarkable and unusual features present themselves. The contrast between this trial and that of the assassin, Guiteau, is marked, and very favorable to the method in which the District Attorney of Buffalo conducted his case. As will be remembered, Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, and died on September 19th. Guiteau was not arraigned until November 14th of the same year. He secured counsel, who made a determined and persistent effort to save their client from the gallows. They obtained the services of at least two alienists as experts, who testified with marked vigor that the defendant was insane; they brought out his previous life and actions, and adduced much evidence to prove that he was a paranoiac. The trial lasted almost eleven weeks, and ended with the conviction of Guiteau. He was not executed until June 30th, almost a year after the assassination. Notwithstanding the amount of evidence brought forward as to the mental unsoundness of Guiteau, there never was any doubt as to the verdict which would be brought in by the jury, and the whole country heartily approved of the execution of the criminal.
     In the case of Czolgosz, the defendant entered a plea of guilty. He refused to make any attempt to secure counsel, and even when two able lawyers were appointed by the Court, he apparently declined to give them any assistance in the preparation of his defence; he refused to give them any information as to his past life, or to say anything which would be in extenuation or defence of his detestable crime. His counsel seemed to have made no attempt to produce evidence as to his possible insanity, nor did they effectively cross-examine the witnesses who testified that he was sane. They merely accepted the opinion, which was secured by the prosecution, that the defendant was of sound mind and responsible for his action, and the defence which they made was merely a technical one. The trial was brought swiftly to a close in two days, when Czolgosz was sentenced to suffer the extreme penalty of the law some time during the week ending October 28th, or in less than two months from the death of his victim.
     There is no doubt that the trial was conducted with the utmost dignity and impartiality, and that the verdict was a righteous and just one. At the same time one cannot help feeling regret that the counsel for Czolgosz did not make an attempt to bring out some evidence as to the man’s mental condition and his previous life. It is certain that no testimony adduced by the defence would have made any change in the verdict, and it would probably have emphasized even more positively the prisoner’s entire responsibility for his act. Had the counsel for the defence gone into the question of Czolgosz’s possible insanity, either by producing experts or by cross-examination of the State’s witnesses, the case would have been of some interest and value to medical jurisprudence. A point greatly to be commended is, that the experts who were called by the prosecution were selected by the Bar Association, presumably in conference with the District Attorney. This method of securing experts is in the right direction, and seems the best way of proceeding in similar cases. It does away as far as possible with the personal attitude of the expert towards the side which has employed him, and from which he expects to receive his remuneration.



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