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Hans Schmidt Trials: 1913 & 1914

Insanity Plea

That Schmidt killed Anna Aumuller was not in doubt when his trial began on December 7, 1913, but his defense team, lead by W. M. K. Olcott, was emphatic that their client had been consumed by a "blood lust" and, therefore, was not responsible for his actions. As support for this view they produced Dr. Arnold Leo, who had treated Schmidt and Aumuller some months before the tragedy.

Leo told the court that at their first meeting Schmidt had initially claimed to be a music teacher, but later admitted that he was a priest. "Schmidt told me that he was very much in love with the girl, and that he intended to give up the priesthood and marry her." Leo described how during one of his professional visits to see Schmidt at the rectory, the priest unaccountably became "wildly excited," then sprang across the room and grabbed a zither. After playing the instrument for a few minutes he stopped, sat down and began to talk calmly.

So far as the prosecution, which knew a great deal about the defendant's shady background, was concerned, Schmidt was a scheming con man, entirely responsible for his actions. The arresting officer, Inspector Joseph A. Faurot, testified that at first Schmidt had denied knowing Anna Aumuller, but had yielded when Faurot said, "Come now, tell us the whole truth about this thing."

According to Faurot, Schmidt admitted purchasing the knife and handsaw on August 31, then creeping into Aumuller's bedroom on night of September 2, while she lay sleeping, and slashing her throat. Quizzed about the obvious signs of experience in the dissection, Schmidt admitted that he had been a medical student before being ordained.

Assistant District Attorney James A. Delehanty wanted the jury to know more about what Faurot had discovered about Schmidt's background. Faurot detailed the extraordinary career of a priest who often posed as a doctor, in which capacity he had performed illegal abortions, a man who turned his hand to counterfeiting, someone who had aroused concern at several churches across America, and yet who had miraculously avoided censure.

Clearly Schmidt was peculiar, but was he mad? It would be up to the jury to decide.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1883 to 1917Hans Schmidt Trials: 1913 1914 - Insanity Plea, Deadlocked