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The Sickles murder... First use of insanity as a defense...



Item # 606956

March 1, 1859

NEW YORK TIMES, March 1, 1859 

* Daniel Edgar Sickles trial
* Philip Barton Key murder


The top of the front page has: "The Sickles Tragedy" "A Preliminary Examination Waived--Mr. Sickles Remains in Prison" "Continuation of the Excitement--State of Public Feeling" with the article taking over half a column.
This murder case created a national sensation because of the lurid details, as Sickles suspected Key (son of Francis Scott Key) of having an affair with his wife, and when caught pursuing her he shot him at point blank range shouting, "You must die! You must die!". Sickles' defense ultimately was that he could not be held responsible because he was driven insane by the knowledge his wife was sleeping with Phillip Key. This was the first use of the "insanity plea" for a murder case. Ultimately Sickles would be found not guilty.

Category: Pre-Civil War

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