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July 1972

Wilhelm Reich: Self-Destined Victim and Social Casualty: A Study of His Trial and Appeal

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Boston.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1972;27(1):73-77. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1972.01750250061008

Wilhelm Reich was convicted of criminal contempt in May 1956 and was sentenced to two years in prison. Despite a recent wave of popularity for Reich there remains a great deal of public unawareness about Reich's last research work, his theories, and the events surrounding his trial and conviction. In researching biographical material, transcripts of all proceedings, and his little-known pro se appeal, one begins to have a fuller picture of Reich. The interactions between Reich's self-destructive character structure, with its particular needs, his perpetrations of illegalities, and his conviction are discussed. Implications regarding society's manner of handling dissonance and deviance are explored. The relevance of "competency" and the insanity defense are examined as well as the reasons for their absence.