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Patty Hearst Trial: 1976

Psychiatrists Testify Of Brainwashing

Even Judge Carter appeared to doze off during the weeks of psychiatric analysis that followed. Bailey produced three psychiatric experts, who testified that Hearst's behavior was the result of brainwashing or "coercive persuasion" techniques like those used by Chinese Communists on American prisoners of war during the Korean War. Hearst's behavior was diagnosed to be consistent with the traumas she had suffered. The government called its own experts. One felt that Hearst had cooperated with the SLA voluntarily because she enjoyed her new-found notoriety. Another described her as a "rebel in search of a cause" before her kidnapping.

In his summation, Browning methodically cataloged every action that might indicate Hearst's sympathy with the SLA, from the gunfire at the sporting goods store to her possession of a Mexican trinket given to her by Willie Wolfe. The prosecutor found it incredible that she had not tried to escape during all of her time with the SLA. Bailey's final argument was brief and rambling by comparison.

The jury found Hearst guilty of robbery and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. Judge Carter imposed preliminary maximum sentences for each crime, with a review contingent on the results of yet another psychiatric report. Before it began, Hearst's lung collapsed. The examinations resumed after her recovery. Psychiatrists pressed Hearst to state some remorse for her involvement in the robbery, but she refused, saying that her agreement to accompany the SLA to the bank was the only thing that stopped them from killing her. Under such circumstances, she maintained, she would do the same thing again. Ironically, the government sought and received Hearst's help in gathering information about the SLA, even as it was prosecuting her. She agreed to testify against the Harrises.

On September 24, 1976, after already serving more than a year in jail, Hearst was finally sentenced to seven years imprisonment. She was freed in November on $1.5 million bail pending the appeal of her robbery conviction. She pleaded "no contest" to charges of assault and robbery in the Mel's Sporting Goods incident and was released on probation because she posed no threat to the community.

She returned to prison more than a year later when the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear her appeal. She changed lawyers. Her new attorney, George C. Martinez, filed motions in federal court, urging that her sentence be reduced to time served and that her conviction be overturned on the grounds that her former attorneys did not defend her adequately. Hearst accused Bailey of being preoccupied with his plans to write a lucrative book about her case.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1973 to 1980Patty Hearst Trial: 1976 - Patty Becomes Tania, Captured And Arrested, Defendant Takes The Stand, Psychiatrists Testify Of Brainwashing