March 10, 2017

Last ever Thursday seminar (apart from revision)!

Please could everyone look at an Old Bailey trial involving insanity or the insanity plea - considering in particular how the defendant was diagnosed as insane (or not).

Then at the following sources:

Yetunde and Oliver B - Hume

Charlotte and James - Queen v McNaghten

Louisa and Aksana - Davey

Izzy and Blessing - Fraser's magazine

Mikka and Oliver R-J - Forbes Winslow

Allemat, Amie, Abi and Zoe - Broadmoor rules and Bethlem records (note not all the latter are digitised. The ones that are have 'Image' next to them in the catalgoue. eg see: http://archives.museumofthemind.org.uk/HPA.htm#HPA-22)


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  1. Isabel Lock

    Old Bailey Trial: Murder, 7th January 1884. Annie Player, indicted for the wilful murder of William Player (her child).

    KARL LOBAU – neighbour of the accused. Her and her husband had two children, one about three and a half and a baby about seven months. On the afternoon of 27th November, about 3 o’clock, Lobau was looking through his window on the first floor front, and saw the baby fall down from the window above into the roadway. The father had picked it up by the time the neighbour had run down. Screaming then came from the window above, where the prisoner was hanging out of the window on the window sill. They dragged her back into the room and after she came to herself she said she was very sorry for what had occurred, but she did not know what she was doing—a constable came and she was taken into custody.
    ‘I never knew her husband and her to quarrel except that day, just a few minutes before I saw the child come out of the window…I heard the husband leave the house.

    DOMINIC KING. On the afternoon of 27th November I was in the room with Lobar—I heard a quarrel and noise overhead, and saw the child falling—I heard screams, looked out of the window, and saw the prisoner hanging from the window above with her legs down—I got my hands under her feet, and held her legs to prevent her falling, till she was dragged in.

    AMELIA NEWBY. On 27th November I was at work at 22, Bolton Road—I heard the screams and saw the prisoner’s baby lying in the road—I saw it picked up—it was fully dressed—I had known the prisoner about three weeks—she seemed a very unhappy sort of woman—she was very kind to the children—the baby was not dead—it was carried to the hospital; it cried going along.

    THOMAS BRIGGS (Policeman E. 87). On 27th November I went to the prisoner’s room on the second floor, and found her lying on the floor, excited and throwing her arms about—her husband was in the room—Lobau said that the prisoner had thrown the child from the window and attempted to throw herself out, and he with others prevented her—she made no reply—on the way to the station she said, “It is all through him I have done this”—the child was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital.

    FREDERICK ARTHUR ROGERS I am house surgeon at St. Mary’s Hospital—about a quarter to 4 on the afternoon of 27th November the child was brought there by Newby and Briggs—there was a bruise on to right eye, and depression of the forehead and fracture of the bone—it remained in the hospital till it died on the 29th from the injuries it had received.

    The Prisoner’s Statement before the Magistrate. “I did not have any intention, to throw my baby out, nor yet to do away with it; I was in the habit of looking out of the window with the baby in my arms.”

    13 Mar 2017, 19:02

  2. Isabel Lock

    Old Bailey trial continued (Annie Player):

    PHILIP FRANCIS GILBERT. I am surgeon to H.M. Gaol, Clerkenwell—the prisoner has been confined there from the time of her arrest to the present time—at first she was nervous and depressed, but had no actual signs of insanity up to 2nd January—on 3rd January she attempted to commit suicide by throwing herself over the banisters down the stairs—on 4th January she again attempted to commit suicide by setting fire to her clothes and putting her head over the flames, and last night she attempted to strangle herself—I believe her to be a person of unsound mind, incapable of knowing the nature and quality of the act she committed—I think she was so at the time this matter occurred—at times she is quite rational—she has been under Dr. Orange and Dr. Gower on two or three occasions—I reported to them the symptoms I saw. From the examination I made of her I think she has been of unsound mind for some time.

    DR. WILLIAM ORANGE. I have been 14 years medical superintendent of Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, and connected with the asylum 21 years—by instructions of the Solicitor to the Treasury I visited the prisoner on two occasions, once with Dr. Gower, and once separately—I inquired into the symptoms from the medical officer of the gaol, and formed a clear opinion that she was of unsound mind; that she was not under the guidance of sound reason at the time she committed the act; that when she committed it she did not know the nature and quality of it in the sense in which I believe the law means those words—she is decidedly a proper person to be confined in a lunatic asylum and placed under proper care and treatment with a view to her recovery.

    GUILTY of the act charged, but insane at the time she did it. — To be detained in custody as a criminal lunatic until Her Majesty’s pleasure be known.

    • Diagnosed by specialist doctors and witnesses/people who knew her and could tell she was not well or of sound mind.
    • Suicide attempts indicator of insanity.

    13 Mar 2017, 19:02

  3. Isabel Lock

    ‘Moral Insanity: Dr Mayo’s Croonian Lectures’, Frasers Magazine, March 1855, pp. 245-259:

    • p. 245: Grave-maker. ‘Hamlet’ ‘hee that was mad and send into England.’ He was sent to England because he was ‘mad’ and would recover there. ‘…there the men are as mad as he.’
    • ‘Of all the various visitations to which the human frame is subject, none carries with it greater terror than mental alienation. Offer to a man blessed with a well-regulated and active mind the choice between the most cruel bodily disease and insanity, and he will not hesitate a moment in making his election.’ Not even death compares to madness, ‘He will instantly welcome death as the least terrible alternative.’
    • Little understanding of madness, difficult to study for the physician. Distinguish between the hypochondriac and the eccentric. Quacks are used to this but the man of science fears it. Increased and is continuing to increase in Britain.
    • The proportion of lunatics in England and France was stated to be 1 to 1000. Prussia similar figures, Wales the proportion was 1 to 800 and Scotland 1 to 574.
    • p. 246: Norway was 1 to 551. In England, agricultural districts had a greater number than industrial areas. Changes in the law as a result, in regards to homicide. Numerous forms of insanity: Disorders of the feelings and propensities/ Delusions or hallucinations/General derangement of the reasoning faculties/Mixed forms in which two or more of the preceding are combined.
    • ‘Moral Insanity’ a term which has become commonly used in courts.
    • p. 247: Moral insanity been used as an excuse for crime and Dr. Mayo deems that to allow people to use this excuse of irresponsibility will just influence others to follow this path too who may have otherwise been restrained by fear of punishment. Also says that as regards to the insane, they should still be treated with the same punishments as the sane, with their derangements being ignored.
    • Magazine agrees with Dr. Mayo’s lectures.
    • Medical practitioner – used as a witness in a civil court.
    • p. 248: Lunacy taken as the generic term – insanity, idiocy, unsoundness then being species varied by the Act of 1853.
    • Insane = one whose intellect is perverted
    • Idiot = one whose intellect is abolished
    • Case of Mrs. Cummins: Witnesses disproving the imputation of insanity. Witnesses said that she was incompetent to manage her person or property. Concluded that a person could be unsound in mind without being insane.
    • p. 249: Dr. Mayo says that the word lunatic is used as equivalent to insane and idiot the same as unsound.

    13 Mar 2017, 19:03

  4. Isabel Lock

    ‘Moral Insanity: Dr Mayo’s Croonian Lectures’, Frasers Magazine, March 1855, pp. 245-259, continued:

    • p. 250: Insanity expansion of the term becomes protective to a criminal.
    • Almost every crime is done under impulse, a result of the loss of self-control and done ‘under the influence of a temporary frenzy.’ But this should not be used as a way to shield the agent from the sword of the law.
    • Case of temporary insanity resulting in a desire to commit murder or suicide are common. Suddenly suffers an uncontrollable homicidal impulse and patients have later bitterly lamented their actions. But has to be no reasonable doubt that the offender was insane at the time.
    • Criticises that every crime is under some impulse and that the aim of the law is to control these impulses and prevent crime.
    • p. 251: Prisoner could be indicted for being unable to resist the impulse to kill and hanged accordingly.
    • p. 254: Various examples given of cases whereby moral insanity was used as a sufficient plea. However in a case in Guildford (Ann Brough), public opinion felt that this verdict was fatal to the security of mankind.
    • p 255: Those who simulate insanity to escape from the consequences of crime. Another example case given from Edinburgh whereby a doctor set a woman’s property on fire. He was deemed insane due to domestic sorrows such as separation from his wife and also drank heavily even though he was typically a sober man and had been a respectable practitioner. Many medical men defended him.
    • p. 256: ‘The present state of the law is most unsatisfactory’.

    13 Mar 2017, 19:04

  5. Louisa Helliker

    J. G. Davey, ‘Plea of Insanity’, Association Medical Journal, Vol. 2, No. 91 (Sep. 29, 1854), pp. 879-882
    • Originally read at the Anniversary Meeting of the Provincial Medical and Surgical Association, at Manchester, Sept. 14th, 1851.
    • Urges lawyers to adapt views of insanity to be in line with modern medicine, however argues that this will be difficult for ‘members of a profession versed only in the words of man, and altogether unacquainted with the works of God’. Only those with medical education can do justice to psychology.
    • Asks for entire reform to plea of insanity and demands to be heard by legal proceedings.
    • Objects to ‘harsh and cruel’ punishments being inflicted on men with ‘fearful and calamitous’ diseases.
    • As Davey writes at the time, a man who knowingly acts contrary to law despite suffering delusions that he was avenging a grievance is subject to punishment. The line between insanity and responsibility is marginal, but Davey claims the ‘bold’ judges are quicker to define it than psychologists.
    • Arguments against partial insanity in the case of M’Naughtan included the metaphor, ‘if an apple had a speck in it, however small, would it be right to call that apple a sound one?’.
    • Davey claims that delusions in no way can demonstrate insanity. He clarifies, ‘it is never the delusion which prompts to violence, but that morbid condition of the feelings upon which the said delusion is consequent’. Meaning that delusions act on already dominant feelings.
    • He further continues, ‘delusion, then, it is seen, is only an effect, and not a cause, of perverted feeling’, in this case violence.
    • Judges claim that every defendant should be assumed by the jury to be of sound mind.
    • Davey argues that it is not fair to judge a man sane based on ‘lucid intervals’, insanity is not continuous, it comes in waves, compares it to asthma or a cough.
    • Punishment system is futile because ‘the infliction of punishment could never alter the pathological condition of the brain’.
    • Rejects the definition of insanity as dependant on consciously knowing right of wrong, this is ‘no criterion of a sound mind or of responsibility’.
    • ‘Reason is not driven from her seat in maniacal disorders, but Distraction sits down upon it along with her.’ – Lord Erksine.
    • Judges argued that a person who has only partial delusion is equally liable to a person of sound mind. They also claimed that doctors should not be allowed into the trial to determine the accused’s sanity, and this should be left to the jury.
    • Davey sums up in arguing that it is the responsibility of the medical men to not allow the current definition of insanity to ‘disgrace’ the statute book any longer.

    15 Mar 2017, 15:28

  6. Louisa Helliker

    Old Bailey Case, Eliza Huntsman, 15th Dec. 1845, Not Guilty of Murder
    • Accused of killing baby daughter, cousin of the prisoner gave evidence to say that Huntsman had been complaining of head pains for months prior.
    • Cousin further claims prisoner was in a state of ‘distraction’, and that ‘she has had her head shaved several times—her hair has not grown again at all’.
    • When not prone to outbursts, cousin testified that the accused was ‘gentle, kind, and humane’, and neither she nor the child wanted for anything.
    • Accused had an older child, aged 3, who witnesses say the accused was always a ‘kind and affectionate’ mother to.
    • Aunt corroborates cousin’s story of the accused’s head pains, claiming that the accused would often say ‘Aunt, feel my head, the heat of my head’. Resting argument on physical manifestation of mental illness.
    • Wife of the local policeman claimed to have passed the accused on the street soon after the time of death of the infant, and says the accused appeared to be crying.
    • Police constable Lawrence found a bonnet and cap two feet from the river’s edge. After dragging the river for over 4 hours in the middle of the night, the child’s body was found.
    • When the accused was interviewed by the police, the policeman recalled ‘”I don’t know how I came to do it,” she spoke it in a violent tone of agitation and excitement’.
    • Surgeon testified that the child definitely died from drowning. Also gave evidence that the pressure on the accused, who had recently lost her hair due to general weakened health, become a mother, and lost her milk, would lead to ‘temporary derangement’.
    • Medical practitioner at the gaol claimed that ‘sudden absorption of the milk will fly to the brain’, and that temporary insanity in this case is a frequent occurrence.
    • As a result of these testimonies, the prisoner was found not guilty due to being of unsound mind.

    15 Mar 2017, 15:28

  7. Oliver Baldwin

    David Hume, Commentaries on the Laws of Scotland (1814), pp. 3-8

    • James Cummings attacked and killed another soldier. He had received a severe injury prior to the attack.
    • He was supposedly drunk and the time and the court found him insane at the time of the act.
    • However in another case, the court rejected insanity on the grounds that liquor and a short temper had been present when the act was carried out.
    • Pierce Hoskins was another case. He was charged with murder of his own child whilst drunk. However they found when he was sober he was of a melancholic mood.
    • There is discussion on sudden bouts of rage and how this can or cannot qualify as insanity.
    • In most of the cases the presence of alcohol with the defendant severely affects the clear judgement made by the jury.

    15 Mar 2017, 19:14

  8. Aleemat Salami

    • Francis Moretti aged 21 indicted for feloniously wounding Elizabeth Moretti with the intent to murder her (first count), with the intent to do grevious bodily harm (second count); 10th July 1865.
    • They were husband and wife. They had argued the day before and she woke up to the feeling of something on her throat. She saw that there was blooc on her throat and her husband with an ice spoon in his hand
    • The neighbours Mary Ann Wood and Jane Wood, the surgeons Geroge Haycock (called to the scene) and George Welland McKenzie (at the hospital) were also questioned
    • The police inspector was also questioned and revealed that after telling Francis Moretti that he was charged with the attempted to murder his wife and with attempted suicide, Francis Moretti replied “How could I when I lost my senses?”
    • It was revealed that during questioning of Elizabeth Moretti that her husband’s father had “died a lunatic” to which she replied yes
    • However, when she was asked if she thought Francis was in any way insane during the time he was in the hospital she answered “No, I should say not”
    • “COURT. Q: Supposing a man had been out of his senses, and then committed such a deed, would the loss of blood and the care taken of him in the hospital have the effect of bringing him to his sober senses? Elizabeth Moretti: I should think it would”
    • Francis Moretti was found not guilty on the ground of insanity and ordered to be detained until “Her Majesty’s pleasure be known”

    16 Mar 2017, 04:11

  9. Oliver Rea-Jayson

    The Plea of Insanity, In Criminal Cases, by Forbes Winslow (1843)

    o The author was a British psychiatrist famous for his involvement in the Jack the Ripper and Georgia Weldon cases
    o He was one of the most controversial psychiatrists of his time
    o As a boy his father brought him up in lunatic asylums which were also owned by his father
    o He spent his medical career in an attempt to persuade the courts that crime and alcoholism were the result of mental instability. He also appeared in many civil actions.
    o Looks at cases where individuals have murdered whilst sleep-walking or in a half unconscious condition and how these are complex
    o The author states that if it could be proved that someone did such an act in this state then it should be considered as a good exculpating plea
    o Example given where Bernard Schedmaizig killed his wife during the night as he thought she was a frightful phantom
    o States how the judges of the land appear to have not settled on or have clear views on the subject of insanity. Possibly due to their poor ability to define the disease
    o Discusses if someone who is mad should be held to account of their acts
    o Emphasises how the law is not clear in this area
    o States how the person who desires to appear insane often exhibits his sanity by overacting the part of a madman

    16 Mar 2017, 08:43


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