Page images
PDF
EPUB

inent will find their most effective argument in the fact that a jury of the country, through ignorance or passion, or prejudice, have mistaken a madman for a criminal.

The report of Judge Edmonds' charge proceeds: " It was true that the plea of insanity was sometimes adopted as a cloak for crime, yet it was unfortunately equally true, that many more persons were unjustly convicted, to whom their unquestioned insanity ought to have been an unfailing protection."

This judicial answer to the argument that jurors are too likely to be swayed by the plea of insanity, is perfect and complete.

Judge Edmonds further charged the jury“ That it was by no means an easy matter to discover or define the line of demarkation where sanity ended and insanity began,” and that it was often “ difficult for those most expert in the disease to detect or explain its beginning, extent, or duration,' “ that the classifications of the disease were in a great measure arbitrary, and the jury were not obliged to bring the case of the prisoner within any one of the classes, because the symp toms of the different kinds were continually mingling with each other.”

The application of this rule will render the present case perfectly clear, because it appears from the evidence that the prisoner is laboring under a combination of mania or excited madness, with dementia or decay of the mind.

Judge Edmonds furnishes you with a balance to weigh the testimony in the case, in these words:

" It was important that the jury should understand how much weight was to be given to the opinions of medical witnesses. The opinions of men who had devoted themselves to the study of insanity as a distinct department of medical science, and studied recent improvements and discoveries, especially when to that knowledge they added the experience of personal care of the insane, could never be safely disregarded by Courts and Juries ; and on the other hand, the opinions of physicians who had not devoted their particular attention to the disease, were not of any more value than the opinions of common persons."

This charge of Judge Edmonds furnishes a lamp to guide your feet, and throws a clear and broad light over your path. He acknowledges, in the first place, with distinguished independence for a judge and a lawyer, that “the law, in its slow and cautious progress, still lags far behind the advance of true knowledge.” An insane person is one who, at the time of committing the act, labored under such a defect of reason as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, did not know he was doing what was wrong; and the question is not whether the accused knew the difference between right and wrong generally, but whether he knew the difference between right and wrong in regard to the very act with which he is charged.” “If some controlling disease was in truth, the acting power within him, which he could not resist, or if he had not a sufficient use of

his reason to control the passions which prompted him, he is not responsible. But it must be an absolute dispossession of the free and natural agency of the human mind. In the glowing but just language of Erskine, it is not necessary that Reason should be hurled from her seat, it is enough that Distraction sits down beside her, holds her trembling in her place, and frightens her from her propriety.”

Judge Edmonds proceeds: “ And it must be borne in mind that the moral as well as the intellectual faculties may be so disordered by the disease as to deprive the mind of its controlling and directing power.

• In order then to establish a crime, a man must have memory and intelligence to know that the act he is about to commit is wrong; to remember and understand, that if he commit the act, he will be subject to punishment; and reason and will to enable him to compare and choose between the supposed advantage or gratification to be obtained by the criminal act, and the immunity from punishment which he will secure by abstaining from it.

" If, on the other hand, he have not intelligence enough to have a criminal intent and purpose ; and if his moral or intellectual powers are either so deficient that he has not sufficient will, conscience, or controlling mental power; or if through the overwhelming violence of mental disease his intellectual power is for the time obliterated, he is not a responsible moral agent."

The learned Judge recommends to the jury, “ As aids to a just conclusion, to consider the extraordinary and unaccountable alteration in the prisoner’s whole mode of life; the inadequacy between the slightness of the cause and the magnitude of the offence; the recluse and ascetic life which he had led; his invincible repugnance to all intercourse with his fellow creatures; his behavior and conduct at the time the act was done, and subsequeutly during his confinement; and the stulid indifference which he alone had manifested during the whole progress of a trial upon which his life or death depended."

Kleim was acquitted, and sent, according to law, to the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica. The Superintendent of the Asylum, in a note to this report, states that Kleim is uniformly mild and pleasant, has not asked a question, or spoken or learned the name of any one; seems very imperfectly to recollect the murder or the trial ; says he was put in prison; does not know what for; and was taken to the court, but had no trial ;" that his bodily health is good, but that his mind is nearly gonequite demented.

You cannot fail, Gentlemen of the Jury, to remark the extraordinary similarity between the case of Kleim, as indicated in the charge of Judge Edmonds, and that of the prisoner at the bar. If I were sure you would receive such a charge, and be guided by it, I might rest here, and defy the eloquence of the Attorney General. The proof of insanity in this case is of the same nature, and the disease in the same form as in the case of Kleim. The only difference is, that the evidence here is a thousand times more conclusive. But Judge Edmonds does not preside here. Kleim was a white man, Freeman is a negro. Kleim set fire to a house, to burn only a poor, obscure woman and her child. Here the madman destroyed a whole family, rich, powerful, honored, respected and beloved. Kleim was tried in the city of New York; and the community engaged in their multiplied avocations, and heedless of a crime not unfrequent there, and occurring in humble life, did not overawe and intimidate the court, the jury, or the witnesses. Here a panic has paralyzed humanity. No man or woman feels safe until the maniac shall be extirpated from the face of the earth. Kleim had the sympathies of men and women, willing witnesses, advocates sustained and encouraged by popular favor, and an impartial jury. Freeman is already condemned by the tribunal of public opinion, and has reluctant and timorous witnesses, counsel laboring under embarrassments plainly to be seen, and a jury whose impartiality, although it ought to have been ascertained at the beginning, is yet to be proved.

The might that slumbered in this maniac's arm was exhausted in the paroxysm which impelled him to his dreadful deeds. Yet an excited community, whose terror has not yet culminated, declare that, whether sane or insane, he must be executed to give safety to your dwellings and theirs. I must needs then tell

you the law, which will disarm such cowardly fear. If you acquit the prisoner, he cannot go at large, but must be committed to jail, to be tried by another jury, for a second murder. Your dwellings therefore will be safe. If such a jury find him sane, he will then be sent to his fearful account, and your dwellings will be safe. If acquitted, he will be remanded to jail, to await a third trial, and your dwellings will be safe. If that jury convict, he will then be executed, and your dwellings will be safe. If they acquit, he will still be detained to answer for a fourth murder, and your dwellings will be safe. Whether the fourth jury acquit or convict, your dwellings will still be safe : for if they convict, he will then be cut off; and if they acquit, he must, according to the law of the land, be sent to the Lunatic Asylum, there to be confined for life. You may not slay him, then, for the public security, because the public security does not demand the sacrifice. No security for home or hearth can be obtained by judicial murder. God will abandon him wlio, through cowardly fear, becomes such a murderer. I also stand for the security of the homes and hearths of my fellow citizens, and have as deep an interest, and as deep a stake as any one of them. Here are my home and hearth, exposed

to every danger that can threaten theirs; but I know that security cannot exist for any, if feeble man undertakes to correct the decrees of Providence.

The Counsel for the People admit in the abstract that insanity excuses crime, but they insist on rules for the regulation of insanity to which that disease can never conform itself. Dr. FOSGATE testified that the prisoner was insane. He was asked by the Attorney General, “What if the law, nevertheless, hold to be criminal that same state of mind which you pronounce insanity ?” He answered with high intelligence and great moral firmness, “The law cannot alter the constitution of man, as it was given him by his Maker.”

Insanity such as the Counsel for the People would tolerate, never did and never will exist. They bring its definition from Coke, Blackstone and Hale, and it requires that by reason either of natural infirmity or of disease, the wretched subject shall be unable to count twenty, shall not know his father or mother, and shall have no more reason or thought than a brute beast.

According to the testimony of Dr. SPENCER, and the claim of the Attorney General, an individual is not insane if you find any traces or glimmerings of the several faculties of the human mind, or of the more important ones.

Dr. SPENCER has found in the prisoner, memory of his wrongs and sufferings, hunger to be appeased, thirst to be quenched, choice between bread and animal food, love of combat, imperfect knowledge of money, anger and malice. All of Dr. SPENCER's questions to the accused show that, in looking for insanity, he demands an entire obliteration of all conception, attention, imagination, association, memory, understanding and reason, and every thing else. There never was an idiot so low, never a diseased man so demented.

You might as well expect to find a man born without eyes, ears, nose, mouth, hands and feet, or deprived of them all by disease, and yet surviving, as to find such an idiot, or such a lunatic, as the Counsel for the People would hold irresponsible. The reason is, that the human mind is not capable, while life remains, of such complete obliteration. What is the human mind? It is immaterial, spiritual, immortal; an emanation of the Divine Intelligence, and if the frame in which it dwells had preserved its just and natural proportions, and perfect adaptation, it would be a pure and heavenly existence. But that frame is marred and disordered in its best estate. The spirit has communication with the world without, and acquires imperfect knowledge only through the hallopened gates of the senses. If, from original defects, or from accidental causes, the structure be such as to cramp or restrain the mind, it becomes or appears to be weak, diseased, vicious and wicked. I know one who was born without sight, without hearing, and without speech, retaining the faculties of feeling and smell. That child was, and would have continued to be an idiot, incapable of receiving or communicating thoughts, feelings or affections, but tenderness unexampled, and skill and assiduity unparalleled, have opened avenues to the benighted mind of Laura Bridgman, and developed it into a perfect and complete human spirit, consciously allied to all its kindred, and aspiring to Heaven. Such is the mind of every idiot, and of every lunatic, if you can only open the gates, and restore the avenues of the senses; and such is the human soul when deranged and disordered by disease, imprisoned, confounded, benighted. That disease is insanity.

Doth not the idiot eat? Doth not the idiot drink? Doth not the idiot know his father and his mother? He does all this because he is a man. Doth he not smile and weep? Do you think he smiles and weeps for nothing ? Ile smiles and weeps because he is moved by human joys and sorrows, and exercises his reason, however imperfectly. Hath not the idiot anger, rage, revenge? Take from him his food, and he will stamp his feet and throw his chains in your face.

face. Do

Do you think he doth this for nothing ? He does it all because he is a man, and because, however imperfectly, he exercises his reason. The lunatic does all this, and, if not quite demented, all things else that man, in the highest pride of intellect, does or can do. IIe only does them in a different way. You may pass laws for his government. Will he conform? Can he conform? What cares he for your laws ? He will not even plead; he cannot plead his disease in excuse. You must interpose the plea for him, and if you allow it, he, when redeemed from his mental bondage, will plead for you when he shall return to your Judge and his. If you deny his plea, he goes all the sooner, freed from imperfection, and with energies restored, into the presence of that Judge. Yon must meet him there, and then, no longer bewildered, stricken and dumb, he will have become as perfect, clear and bright, as those who reviled him in his degradation, and triumphed in his ruin.

And now what is insanity? Many learned men have defined

« PreviousContinue »