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Books, Journals, New Media
April 14, 2004

Unconscious Crime

Author Affiliations

Books, Journals, New Media Section Editor: Harriet S. Meyer, MD, Contributing Editor, JAMA; David H. Morse, MS, University of Southern California, Norris Medical Library, Journal Review Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(14):1777-1778. doi:10.1001/jama.291.14.1777

In Unconscious Crime, we are transported back to the courtrooms of Victorian England, where some of the most mysterious and controversial trials were heard and recorded. Defendants include a 12-year-old boy who stole arsenic and poisoned his grandfather without conscious intent or remorse; an inmate of a mental asylum with more than 200 spirits conversing in his head, who claimed to have witnessed the beating to death of a fellow inmate by their prison warden; and a father who arose in the middle of the night and flung his son repeatedly against the wall, thinking he was killing a wild beast attacking the son. These absurdly fantastic but true stories were recorded in the Old Bailey Papers. Beyond being excellent material for crime fiction, they reveal profoundly intriguing ideas about the definition of consciousness and person that had yet to be given much attention in the pre-Freudian, pre–brain imaging era.

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