April 10, 1907 (Wednesday)
THAW'S DEFENSE LAWYER OFFERS THE 'DEMENTIA AMERICANA' DEFENSE: The trial of Harry K. Thaw is wrapping up. He is the wealthy man who killed architect Sanford White last summer. Thaw's lawyer yesterday played the "unwritten law" defense. Lawyer Delphin Delmas (right) acknowledged that his client killed White. "He struck as does the tigress strike at the man who endeavors to take her cubs. He struck for the purity of the wives and homes of America."
That comment set the stage for his "DEMENTIA AMERICANA" analysis. That's what he called the type of insanity that plagued Thaw. Here's his statement, as printed in today's New York Times:
I care not whether you give that insanity a name or not. It is a species of insanity which, though it may be unknown to these learned alienists, is perfectly familiar to every man who is familiar with the history of jurisprudence in in these United States.
It is a species of insanity which has been recognized in every court in every State of this Union, from the Canadian border to the Gulf of Mexico. It is that species of insanity which, if you desire, you learned gentlemen, to give it a name, I ask you to label 'DEMENTIA AMERICANA.'
It is that species of insanity which makes every American believe that his home is sacred.
It is that species of insanity which makes him believe that the purity of his daughter is sacred.
It is that species of insanity that makes him believe that the honor of his wife is sacred.
It is that species of insanity which makes him believe that whoever invades the sanctity of that home, whoever brings pollution upon that daughter, whoever stains the virtue of that wife, has forfeited the protection of human laws and must appeal to the eternal justice and mercy of God if he may so appeal for his protection.
This, of course, sounds dangerously close to the rationale some give for LYNCHING.
POLITICAL CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (ASSASSINATIONS AND EXECUTIONS) IN RUSSIA ARE AT A STAGGERING LEVEL: The numbers from Russia are grim. Since August, 1,080 men and women have been "hanged or shot under sentence of military courts, mostly within forty-eight hours of arrest." During the same period 1,242 people described as "wearers of the Czar's coat, of high and low degree" have been assassinated. Furthermore about 2,000 innocent bystanders have died as a result of the attacks. The article on the front page of today's New York Times about the killings -- and the suspension of executions during the past 10 days -- carries the byline of Stephen Bonsal, a longtime writer who would go on to write a Pulitzer Prize-winning book about the "Unfinished Business" in the aftermath of World War I.
TOURISTS IN PARIS WILL HAVE TO FIND SOMEPLACE ELSE TO GO -- NOW THAT THE MORGUE IS CLOSED: Today's Times passes on a report datelined from Paris on March 31 and passed through the London Pall Mall Gazette that the open-door policy at the famous Paris Morgue has ended. The notice says, "On the morrow of a crime it is astonishing to see the buses disgorge in front of the lugubrious little building; the world hurries in to have a look a the victim before business hours." (The photo at the right is purported to be a picture of the inside of the morgue.) The morgue will be moved by M. Lepine and he will no longer allow it to be open to the "merely curious." From now on it will be open only to those who are needed to help identify victims.