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The 1843 verdict led to reformulation of the British criminal insanity standard, which American jurisdictions noted. In 1846, New York State tried William Freeman for slaying several members of the Van Nest family at their home near Auburn, New York. Mr. Freeman had been obsessed with false imprisonment for horse theft. His defense attorney, former governor William Seward, sought an insanity verdict, citing reaction to racist maltreatment as the cause. Though Mr. Freeman was impaired, a jury found him competent to stand trial. The competency adjudication created confusion in the trial court about the admissibility of medical testimony on criminal responsibility, resulting in exclusion of key psychiatric findings. Meanwhile, the interracial killings caused a sensation in the press, which vilified the defendant. Again, the defense argued that maltreatment created mental illness. A second jury convicted Mr. Freeman and the judge sentenced him to death. Seward filed a Writ of Error, and the New York State Supreme Court reversed the conviction, clarifying competency versus criminal responsibility and proclaiming the M'Naghten Rule as the standard in New York. A century later, attorneys cited Mr. Freeman's dynamics to explain and mitigate the violent actions of some African-Americans. We examine the insanity defense during the 1840s and explore twentieth-century "black rage" reverberations of the case.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: The journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law
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A legal concept that an accused is not criminally responsible if, at the time of committing the act, the person was laboring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act done or if the act was known, to not have known that what was done was wrong. (From Black's Law Dictionary, 6th ed)
The geographic area of Latin America in general and when the specific country or countries are not indicated. It usually includes Central America, South America, Mexico, and the islands of the Caribbean.
The general name for NORTH AMERICA; CENTRAL AMERICA; and SOUTH AMERICA unspecified or combined.
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Fury; violent, intense anger.
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