Once again I passed through the cordon of police in the corridor of the
Hall of Justice, passed the handsome deputy in the little pine door and
the bailiff at the entrance to the courtroom, and once again none of them
seemed to suspect that I do not know the difference between right and wrong
or that it might seem eminently proper to me to dismember thema nd scatter
their remnants in Elysian Park.
IS HICKMAN NOT GUILTY BECAUSE
MOTHER HEARD STRANGE NOISES?
That's Defense Idea as It Appears to Edgar Rice Burroughs;
'After Sizing Up Jurors, I'm Convinced
It Isn't Going to Get Very Far With Them,' He Adds
Los Angeles Examiner, February 1, 1928
By Edgar Rice Burroughs
Noted Writer, Creator of "Tarzan" and Author of "The
In fact, I never suspected this myself until I caught the trend and
purpose of the depositions read by the defense attorneys in Judge Trabucco's
court yesterday, from which I gather that insane people do not know the
difference between right and wrong and that people who suffer from hallucinations
The idea, as it appeared to me, is to prove that Hickman is not guilty
of kidnaping and murder because his mother thought she heard strange noises
about the house at night.
In other words she suffered from hallucinations, therefore she was crazy;
therefore she did not know the difference between right and wrong; therefor
anyone who does wrong my suffer from hallucinations, which unquestionably
proves them insane, therefore Hickman is innocent, Q. E. D.
When I was a young man, I thought, upon a certain occasion, I could
thrash a policeman. It was an hallucination. ONce I had an hallucination
that I could write a play. With these facts well established and a matter
of record I may now start upon a career of murder.
And consider the lives of constant danger that all of us married men
lead, for how many of us are there who do not sleep nightly in the same
room with one who hears things about the house after dark? That is, I mean,
of course if we are sleeping where we should.
So far the evidence adduced has not been very convincing, even as to
the insanity of Mrs. Hickman, let alone the inability of her son to know
that wanton murder is not considered entirely good form, and after sizing
up the Hickman jury I am of the opinion that it is not going to get very
far with them.
A point was brought out in the deposition of Hickman's high school chum,
John Johnson, that is the most damning evidence thus far submitted, and
that further crystallizes my already unalterable convition that the world
will be better off after Mr. Hickman has departed hence.
He was a boy orator.
That was the first downward step, after that came forgery, robbery,
I have known all along that something like this was goiong to
happen if some steps were not taken to stem the tide of boy oratory.
Consider the astounding statement made recently in a local newspaper
that the 1928 crop of boy orators will moiunt to the appalling toal of
2,000,000! Imagine the consequences of annually turning loose upon us 2,000,000
It is safe to assume that the defense will attempt to show that insanity
is hereditary. That should not be difficult, as expert opinion is quite
unanimous upon that point, and the defense may even prove that Hickman
is or hs been insane, but let us hope that noting occurs to confuse the
legal and medical definition of insanity in the mind of a single juror.
NORMALITY OF MIND
By medical standards one might easily be accounted insane whome the
law could hold to strict accouintability for his every act. Mental depression,
extreme nervous irritability are not normal condition sof a healthy
mind and a mind tha tis not normal may be adjudged insane, according to
the testimony of one of the physicians who attended Mrs. Hickman prior
to her commitment ot the Arkansas lunatic asylum.
As a matter of fact, however, the only issue in this trial may be summed
up in a single question: Did William Edward Hickman believe that he was
doing right when he kidnaped and murdered Marion Parker?
Or, to be more fair, was he ignorant of the fact that he was committing
an act that would prove harmful to her? Such a conclusion is incredible
and because it is so increadible this whole, seemingly interminable business
of determingin something that everyone already knows, assumes the proportion
of a vast hoax -- a hoax that society is playing upon itself and paying
for, not only in money today, but will continue to pay for in money and
tears and suffering for generations to come.
What is the answer? I believe that the answer could be given by such
men as Judge Trabucco if they were not hampered by the necessitites of
present-day criminal court procedure.