Document Type

Article

Comments

Dangerousness and Mental Illness: Some Observations on the Decision to Release Persons Acquitted by Reason of Insanity (with Jay Katz), 70 Yale Law Journal 225 (1960)

Abstract

On July 10, 1958, following the trial of Edith L. Hough for murder in the District of Columbia she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Consequently she was committed to Saint Elizabeth's Hospital for treatment and custody. On October 20, 1958, approximately three months later, Dr. Winfred Overholser, the hospital's superintendent, notified the trial court that "Miss Hough has now recovered sufficiently to be granted her conditional release . . . ." In response to an objection by the United States Attorney, a hearing was held before a trial judge who, after listening to the testimony of several psychiatrists, denied the release and directed the superintendent to discontinue his practice of allowing Miss Hough to leave the hospital for short periods during the day, except when in the custody of a hospital attendant. The judge found that she had not "recovered her sanity" and that it had not been established that she "will not in the reasonable future be dangerous to herself or others." In reaching his decision, he found that the psychiatric testimony demonstrated that Miss Hough was still suffering from a schizophrenic reaction of the paranoid type and that she lacked any insight concerning the seriousness of the killing. He also took into account the shortness of the lapse of time since trial because he felt early release would be in conflict with the function of detention as a means of imposing punishment.

Date of Authorship for this Version

1960

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