Au­thor puts crim­i­nal minds on trial

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Bren­lee Car­ring­ton

RO­MAN­TIC pas­sion can be deadly, as this dis­turbingly in­trigu­ing le­gal his­tory book demon­strates. Lisa Ap­pig­nanesi is a nov­el­ist, writer and vis­it­ing pro­fes­sor of lit­er­a­ture and the med­i­cal hu­man­i­ties at King’s Col­lege, Lon­don, Eng­land (she grew up in France and Canada). As chair­woman of the Freud Mu­seum, Ap­pig­nanesi is clearly qual­i­fied to write about the com­pli­cated psy­cho­log­i­cal com­po­si­tion of the crim­i­nals she profiles. She ac­knowl­edges hav­ing con­sulted with nu­mer­ous psy­chi­a­trists, psy­cho­an­a­lysts and lawyers in the cre­ation of her lat­est pub­li­ca­tion. The re­sult is a fresh per­spec­tive on tragic crimes “that grew out of pas­sion” that takes read­ers on an ac­tion-packed jour­ney through court­room tri­als of the late-19th and early 20th century in Bri­tain, France, and the United States. Thor­oughly re­searched and very well­writ­ten, this tome em­ploys in-depth anal­y­sis of no­to­ri­ous crimes com­mit­ted in the name of pas­sion. Sta­tis­tics from au­thor Ruth Har­ris cited in the book re­veal that the “crime of pas­sion” de­fence ex­ploded in France be­gin­ning in the 19th century. In 1880 in Paris, out of 30 crimes in to­tal, there were six crimes of pas­sion, in­clud­ing a con­cert singer stalk­ing her lover over many weeks and then shoot­ing him. As of 1905, out of 100 crimes in to­tal, 35 were crimes of pas­sion. Be­gin­ning in Brighton, Eng­land, in 1870, we learn about a de­vi­ous per­pe­tra­tor who at­tempts to mur­der the wife of her paramour with poi­son. In New York City in 1906, a multi-mil­lion­aire, in a jeal­ous rage, shoots and kills a male au­di­ence mem­ber in the mid­dle of a mu­si­cal theatre per­for­mance at Madi­son Square Gar­den. The au­thor ef­fec­tively weaves his­tor­i­cal and le­gal anal­y­sis with the tri­als and crimes she’s de­scrib­ing. She of­fers an ex­cel­lent be­hind-the-scenes view of the le­gal sys­tem in the late-19th and early 20th cen­turies. Ap­pig­nanesi ex­plains that in the early 20th century, courts and psy­chi­a­trists be­came en­meshed as ex­pert wit­nesses were used to shed light on the ac­tions and men­tal health of the ac­cused. Typ­i­cal of Ap­pig­nanesi’s colourful prose is this pas­sage about psy­chi­a­trists: “Theirs was an ex­per­tise founded on the very pas­sions that sweep rea­son away, on va­grant emo­tions and er­ratic cog­ni­tive pow­ers, on ma­nias, delu­sions, delir­ium and au­toma­tisms. Their knowl­edge,” she writes, “could serve the courts and in­form jus­tice, as well as pro­tect so­ci­ety.” Ap­pig­nanesi documents how us­ing psy­chi­a­trists as ex­pert wit­nesses in the court­room “subtly changed our view of the hu­man.” She ob­serves that when psy­chi­atric ex­perts and me­dia ex­plored the mo­tives in mur­der and at­tempted-mur­der tri­als, “trans­gres­sive sex­u­al­ity, sav­age jeal­ousies, ram­pant for­bid­den de­sires, pas­sions gone askew, vul­ner­a­ble sug­gestible hys­ter­i­cal minds were re­vealed to be as­pects not only of those oth­ers we la­bel mad but po­ten­tially of us all.” In to­day’s Cana­dian jus­tice sys­tem, an ac­cused may be found not crim­i­nally re­spon­si­ble on ac­count of men­tal dis­or­der. Tri­als of Pas­sion traces the roots of that le­gal con­cept, ex­am­in­ing the “power strug­gle that continues to­day be­tween the law’s def­i­ni­tions of in­san­ity and the more com­plex un­der­stand­ings of the hu­man that the mind spe­cial­ists pro­mul­gate.” Lisa Ap­pig­nanesi is cor­rect, but not po­lit­i­cally cor­rect, when she states “Though the line be­tween mad­ness and bad­ness be­comes in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to draw, the au­thor­i­ties all agree that the line is fun­da­men­tal to any le­gal sys­tem.” It is this type of in­sight that makes Tri­als of Pas­sion a com­pelling read for a wide au­di­ence. Bren­lee Car­ring­ton, a Win­nipeg lawyer and me­di­a­tor, is the Law So­ci­ety of Man­i­toba’s

Eq­uity Om­budswoman.

Tri­als of Pas­sion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Mad­ness

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.