Henry Herbert Goddard.

The criminal imbecile; online

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Jean consisted largely of the use of these tests, and as
a result he estimated his mentality at approximately
ten years of age. It was somewhat difficult to estimate
his mentality with the usual exactness since others had
already used the tests, and it was impossible to say how
much Jean had learned from his previous examinations.
As a matter of fact, in some cases at least, he had not
profited by the experiences which should have helped
him greatly had he been a normal boy. For example,
one of the tests is to draw from memory a diagram which



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THE CASE OF JEAN GIANINI 33

he has been allowed to study for ten seconds. It is clear
that if one were given this test two or three times, at
the last trial he should have a pretty good idea of it
and be able to draw it correctly. Although the writer's
use of this test was in the last of the series of those who
tested him, yet he did not succeed in drawing it. This
is usually drawn by a child of ten years. When asked
to repeat a certain sentence, he replied, "Oh, I have
been asked that a hundred times." But in spite of
the fact that he had heard it several times he failed
to remember it, and yet this sentence is generally re-
membered by a child of twelve.

This is not the place nor is it necessary to discuss the
Binet tests themselves. A word, however, may be
said as to why the experts for the prosecution did not
get the same results with the tests that those of the
defense obtained. Also it seems necessary to make a
brief explanation, since the prosecuting attorney failed
so markedly to understand the tests in spite of the fact
that he had had the instruction of one of his own ex-
perts who used them. One of the prosecution's ex-
perts told the writer that he did not ask Jean any
questions except those in the twelve-year list, and he
"seemed to do those satisfactorily." There are two
sources of error in this. In the first place, Jean's



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34 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

failures were not only in the twelve-year, but in the
eleven and ten. Secondly, if Jean seemed to do the
twelve-year tests correctly, it could only have been
because they were wrongly used. The Binet Scale is
not, as the prosecutor insisted on stating, an "arbitrary
system." It is not a set of questions to which there
are definite and fixed answers that are correct, and
from which any deviation is marked a failure. Nor is
it a set of questions the answers to which can be judged
as to their correctness by the so-called " common sense "
of the investigator. To illustrate : Jean was asked to
give the definition of the word "charity''; he said,
"Charity is giving." The prosecuting attorney in-
sisted that this was a correct answer, because, as he
said, "Charity is giving." This is mere sophistry.
It is not a question as to whether "charity is giving"
is a theoretically correct answer to the question ; the
important point is, that such an answer is not the kind
of answer that is given by twelve-year-old. children. This
has been proved by asking hundreds of twelve-year-old
children to define "charity." Practically 75 per cent
of such children include not only the idea of giving, but
the other necessary idea of giving to some one who is
in need. The answer, "Charity is giving," is character-
istic not of twelve-year mentality, but of something



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THE CASE OF JEAN GIANINI 35

under that, — ten or less. So throughout the system
the scale must not be judged by what seem correct or in-
correct answers to the inexperienced adult. The value
of an answer can only be known by knowing the char-
acter of answers that are given by children of the
various ages. The point is not always that this answer
is or is not technically correct, but that it is not the
kind of answer which a child of the specified age should
give. Therefore, it indicates that he is not of that age,
but below it. This was the error into which the
prosecutor and his alienists had fallen in their use of
the tests in the case of Jean Gianini.

Jean's school record was the serious stumblingblock
to many persons who, from the facts, notably those
already cited, were inclined to think that possibly he
was an imbecile. To many of these persons that
record seemed to indicate a normal boy. The teach-
ers and the principal testified that he did his work
well through the fifth grade and got excellent marks,
even getting 100 per cent in some studies. They lost
sight, however, of the fact that Jean was fourteen or
fifteen years of age and in a grade which he should
have been in at eleven, namely, the fifth.

As a matter of fact, Jean's school experience, when
taken as a whole, is most confirmatory of his imbecile



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36 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

grade. It was proved in court, but not fully appreci-
ated, that Jean got along well through the fifth grade,
but when he went into the sixth grades he failed.

Professor Robinson testified that when Jean was
transferred to Miss Beecher's room, his troubles began.
The boy did not get along nearly so well after the change
and he dropped back in his studies. His teacher was
obliged to report him a number of times to the prin-
cipal, who twice whipped him with a piece of rubber
hose. Failing to make his studies under the new
standard, he was made to occupy a special seat apart
from the other pupils, at the instance, if not the actual
order, of Miss Beecher.

The witness further testified that in the last days of
his school life Jean dropped, to a very marked degree^ in
his standing in his studies. This falling off in Jean's
ability was attributed to his teacher. As a matter of
fact, the falling off was due to the fact that Jean had
reached his limit in the fifth grade. He attained to
that height because of a good memory, which is char-
acteristic of many imbeciles and is in no way indicative
of normal intelligence. It is also very common for
children of this type to get through the fifth grade and
fail in the sixth. They have mentality enough to carry
them to that point, but not farther.



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THE CASE OF JEAN GIANINI 37

It is a satisfaction to realize that Jean's failure in
school with Miss Beecher is in no way due to the in-
efficiency of his unfortunate victim. It was due simply
and solely to the fact that Jean was an imbecile and had
reached his limit. These two facts of a good memory
and of good school work in a few school grades have
deceived many people as to the intelligence of a child.

It should be remembered that many imbeciles do not
show their defect until at the age of eleven or twelve
when they are in the fifth or sixth grade.

One of the witnesses for the prosecution said that he
considered that Jean was normal and that his apparent
backwardness was due to lack of schooling. This is a
common error in all such cases. If asked why a boy
should be backward through lack of schooling when he
has been to school and has had every opportunity to
learn, it is common again to fall back upon the idea that
he has not studied. He has been a wild, wayward boy,
playing truant, more or less, and has never applied
himself, therefore he is behind his grade and is dull and
backward. Again, while not denying that there are
children of perfectly normal intelligence who seem to
be misfits in school or who seem more interested in
other things than in their school work, or children who
will not study because of dislike for the teacher or for



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38 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

various other reasons, yet the reader must be reminded
that a study of the high-grade defective shows that he
is continually being confused with these very excep-
tional children who have the ability but who do not
study. In other words, when a boy does not get along in
school, even though it is evident that he does not study,
the strong probability is that he does not study because
he has not mind enough to appreciate the work, to
understand it, hence to have that highest of all incen-
tives to work, success. The fact that the majority of
boys do get their lessons and get along well in school
should be a strong argument that there is something
seriously wrong with those that do not succeed.

It may further be asked: How does the fact that
the boy has not succeeded in school affect his exami-
nation by the Binet test ? Experience has shown that
the test is affected but slightly. In other words, the
mind develops regardless of school and school training.
As long as we ask only such questions as call for a
general intelligence and do not call for specific school
instruction we are reasonably independent of such
instruction. As a matter of fact, nearly all of the
questions of the Binet Scale are free from this objec-
tion. Some of them, it is true, are a little helped if the
child has been to school and correspondingly hard if



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THE CASE OF JEAN GIANINI 39

the child has not been to school; but, on the whole,
they do not affect the final rating to any serious extent.
This has been proven repeatedly by normal children
who, on account of sickness or for other reasons, have
not been to school, and yet can pass the Binet tests for
their own age.

We must now turn to the question of cause. If we
can account for Jean Gianini's imbecility, it will be
much easier to believe in it. Much has been written
on the subject of the causes of feeble-mindedness.
Certain fundamental principles have been agreed upon.
It is now known that at least 66 per cent of feeble-
mindedness is hereditary ; that is to say, the individual
is feeble-minded because he comes from stock in which
feeble-mindedness exists. There is another group in
which there are practically no other feeble-minded
persons in the family or among the ancestors so far
as can be discovered, but there is, on the other hand,
a great deal of bad physical history; there may be
epilepsy, alcoholism, insanity, or other serious physical
disturbances. Finally, we have a group in which there
is history of some accident, either to the child at the
time of birth or after birth, or to the mother previous
to the birth of the child.

In Jean's case we have no history of accident or



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40 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

injury to the child himself. The pedigree or family
tree has not been worked up and we do not know what
there may be. It was in evidence that the grand-
father was bom on the south side of the Alps ; and
there was some slight attempt to imply, since cre-
tinism is very common in that region, that possibly
there was some cretinous condition in the family. All
this is not impossible ; and if it existed in the grand-
father or even in the great-grandfather, such a con-
dition might reappear in the grandson in the form of
imbecility; yet in view of our present knowledge, or
rather our lack of knowledge on this subject, this line
of argument is too vague to enable us to draw any
conclusions.

The fact that the mother of Jean was insane and
alcoholic justly had great weight. Before her first child
was bom she broke down mentally and was probably
never " right " after that time. The first child lived to
the age of seven and from the description was clearly
an idiot. The second child is entirely normal. Jean,
who is the third child, did not talk until he was five
years old.

Our general studies have not yet gone far enough,
and certainly our study of this particular family is far
from sufficient, to enable us to decide whether this is a



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THE CASE OF JEAN GIANINI 41

matter of heredity or whether we shall say that Jean's
condition as well as that of the first child is traceable
directly to the mother's insanity or to her alcoholism.

For the present purpose, of course, it does not matter.
We see in these facts, whether we regard them as causes
or merely as symptoms of a deeper lying cause, suf-
ficient reason for Jean's being an imbecile. There is
every reason to believe that Jean Gianini is an imbecile
of high grade. The next important question that
arises is a legal one of whether, being an imbecile of
high grade, he knew the nature and quality of his act
and that it was wrong.

Before discussing this let us consider two other
cases — after which we may discuss the general propo-
sition of whether high-grade imbeciles know right and
wrong.



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CHAPTER II

THE CASE OF ROLAND PENNINGTON

On November 7th, 191 3, Lewis S. Pinkerton, the
manager of a certain farm in Delaware Countjr, Penn-
sylvania, suddenly disappeared. As it seemed prob-
able that he was the victim of foul play the detectives
set to work and in due time arrested George March,
the dairyman on the farm, and Roland Pennington, a
farm laborer. Suspicion was directed to these two
men largely through the testimony of the woman who
was supposed to be the so-called common-law wife of
March. At his trial it was shown that he had another
wife living, and consequently she did not even have
that as a claim upon him. This woman had heard
groanings from the direction of the bam, and later
when March came into the house, had noticed blood
on the towel and on his clothing.

The body of the lost man could not be found. After

being taken to prison March accused Pennington of the

, crime, admitting that after the deed was done he as-

4*



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THE CASE OF ROLAND PENNINGTON 43

sisted young Pennington in disposing of the body, be-
cause, as he said, he was afraid that he himself would
be accused of the crime. Having made this admission,
he took the officers to a wood some miles away where
the body had been buried in a rude, shallow grave.

When Pennington was confronted with March's
accusation, he too made a confession, which, however,
implicated March quite as much as himself.

March was tried in Delaware County, and convicted
of murder in the first degree. The defense was, in
accordance with the above statement, "that he had
nothing to do with the crime itself, merely assisted in
disposing of the body."

Pennington's trial occurred in June, 1914, when he
also was convicted of murder in the first degree. The
defense in this case was imbecility and irresponsibility.
Although the jury did not accept this view, the case is
a most interesting one from the standpoint of criminal
imbecility.

The story of the crime is probably best given in
Pennington's own words, since his confession has all
the marks of truthfulness and was evidently accepted
by the jury in the March case. It was almost exclu-
sively on the strength of this testimony that March
was convicted.



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44 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

Statement of Roland Pennington as to the Pinkerton

Homicide

I, Roland Pennington, being duly sworn according
to law depose as follows : —

I went to work at the Wilson farm about October
7th; I boarded with George March and his wife;
George worked on the farm too; he was the butter
maker ; from the time I went to the farm, George was
always kind and good to me ; George had charge over
me when Lew was not there ; George would loan me
money when I wanted any, and several times took me
to Gradyville with him, when he would take me over
to the hotel and treat me to a drink ; about a week or
two after I went to the farm, George had a fight with
his wife at the dinner table ; George told her she was
too intimate with Lew and a painter, who was working
there; she talked back to George and George threw
things at her ; after dinner George told me that what
he said to his wife was true ; that was the first I knew
about George's trouble with his wife; after that
George talked to me about his wife all the time ; once
I told George I would like to go West ; one day George
said he was going to take the painter to law, and get
some money from him, and if I would stick by him, he



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THE CASE OF ROLAND PENNINGTON 45

would divide up with me and take me West. After-
wards he talked more about Lew and his wife; one
day he said if it didn't stop, he would break up, sell the
furniture, and go West, and that if I would save my
money to help out, he would take me with him ; one
day George's wife was away all day. Lew was away
that day too ; they came home about the same time ;
George told me afterwards that he accused his wife of
being with Lew; that night Lew came in the cow
stable while George and I were milking; they had
some words, but I could not hear what they said;
George looked pretty mad and Lew was excited;
George told me afterwards that he had accused Lew of
being with his wife and Lew denied it ; he also said it
was as much as he could do to keep from getting up
and smashing Lew in the face. On several different
times when we were working together, George said
that if Lew didn't stop going with his wife, he would
put a stop to it; George had charge over me when
Lew was not at the farm, and one time when I asked Lew
for some money to buy shoes, he would only give me two
dollars, and gave five dollars to George to buy shoes
for me; after the first of November, George said,
"Lew hasn't paid me. I wonder why"; he said this
on two or three different occasions; on Thursday,



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46 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

November 6th, George came to me and said, "Well,
Rol, Lew paid me to-day," I said, "Did he ?" and he
says, "Yes, he had a big bunch of money on him. Did
you ever see a thousand dollar bill?" I said, "No, I
never saw one." He says, "Well, neither did I. What
figures ought a thousand dollar bill have on it?" I
says, "I don't know. A thousand is one and three
noughts after it." He says, "Well, I asked the Mrs.
about it, and if that's right he had one of them on him."
This took place Thursday afternoon about half past
three in the stable. That night about quarter after
five while George and I were separating the milk down
in the milk house, George said, "How would you like
to have that bunch of money Lew's got on him ?" I
don't remember saying anything to that. There was
nothing more said about it that day. The next morn-
ing, George and I were separating the milk down at the
milk house before breakfast, and George said, "Well,
Lew will have that bunch of money on him to-day.
Let's get it." I said, "What do you mean ?" He says,
"Why, do away with him." I says, "What? Kill
him?" He says, "Yes." I says, "No. I won't kill
him." He says, "Well, you start it and I'll finish it.
I got a blackjack up at the house, I used one time
myself to knock a man in the head with out West, to



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THE CASE OF ROLAND PENNINGTON 47

get seventy-five dollars from him to come East on."
He said he was in a bank in the West and saw this man
get the money — the seventy-five dollars — and when the
man came out, he managed to get a ride with him, and
while they were going along the road, he hit the man
in the head and knocked him out, and went on his way.
I didn't say anything.

That afternoon, about three o'clock, George came to
me in the milk house, while we were getting the milk
buckets and cans ready to take to the bam, and handed
me the blackjack and said, "Here's the blackjack;
you can do it with that." I put it in my pocket. We
then went to the bam. From then up to about five
o'clock, while we were working about the bam, George
kept saying to me, "Don't lose your nerve. The first
chance you get after the workmen are gone, get him."
Several times he said, "Don't miss your chance —
Don't forget." Lew was away that afternoon. He
came home while George and I were milking.

After we finished milking, we took the milk down to
the milk house ; then I went back to the bam to feed
the horses. While I was feeding them, George came
up from the milk house to feed the calf. I generally
fed the calf. George seldom did it. In feeding the
horse, I had to carry hay around from the old horse



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48 THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

stable to the new one. In going around for some hay,
I met George right outside the old horse stable door.
He said, "Lew will be around here pretty soon. You
can get him then.*' After I had finished feeding the
horses, I took the fork over to the old stable. As I was
doing so. Lew went in the new stable. I met George
at the stable door when I came out from putting the
fork away. George said, "He's in the new horse stable ;
go get him." I went in and told Lew there was a nail
in the last stall next to the box stall and that he had
better look at it. He went up to look at it, and while
looking at the place I told him, I struck him on the
head with the blackjack. He turned part way around,
threw up his arm, and said, "Hey, what are you doing ?"
I struck at him some more ; he rushed at me and we
clinched. This happened in the stall alongside a
horse. After we clinched we got out into the passage-
way back of the horses. Lew soon got the blackjack
away from me. As we came out into the passageway,
I think I saw George near the door. He afterwards
told me he heard when I hit Lew first and that he came
in, and that while Lew and I were wrestling. Lew made
a grab for him and knocked his glasses off. Lew and I
tussled quite a while up and down the passage back of
the horses ; Lew was hollering all the time ; I think



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THE CASE OF ROLAND PENNINGTON 49

we went down once, got up again, and went down
again, with Lew on top of me ; then I got on top of
him. At about that time he called for George ; George
must have gone out in the meantime, for when Lew
called for him, I remember the door being opened and
George coming in. He came up and asked Lew what
was the matter, whether the horses kicked him. Lew
said, "Yes, yes, help me.'* George stooped over and
whispered to me, "Where is the blackjack?" I told
him Lew had it. Lew then said, "George, you are no
kind of a man." Whether George got the blackjack
or not I don't know. He then went around by Lew's
head and started kicking. I had my hand on Lew's
head and the first kick George made he kicked my
knuckles. I then left go of Lew and got up. While
getting up George was continuing to kick him in the
head. After continuing to kick him in the head after
I got up, George went around and kicked and stamped
Lew in the side. Then he stopped — and said as
though to himself — "Which side is his heart on?"
Then he started to kick him on the other side. After
a while he stopped. I don't remember whether he
said anything to me or not. Anyhow, George took
him by the head and shoulders and I by the feet and
we carried him into the box stall. Then George went



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so THE CRIMINAL IMBECILE

up to the house for a lantern. I waited for him at the
stable door. He came down with the lantern and
went in the box stall, felt Lew^s heart, and then stood
up and stamped him some more; then he searched
him.

In tussling with Lew I had gotten blood on my coat,
pants, and shirt. After George searched Lew, we left
the stable, and I asked George where the overalls were
that the whitewasher had worn. George said he
thought they were up at the wagon house. We went
there, but could not find them. George did find an old
pair of Lew's pants and a shirt. He gave them to me
and I put them on. While I was putting them on
George went in the house. I went in later, went to my
room, put on another coat, and went down to supper.
George finished his supper first ; got up and told the
Mrs. he was going to Gradyville after some sulphur for
the pigs. He then asked me if I wanted to go along
with him. I said I would. Then we went to the bam ;
George got two bags in the old horse stable and put one
inside the other. Then we went in the new horse
stable where Lew was. George set the lantern down
and told me to take hold of his arms and lift his head
and shoulders. I did so, and George slipped the two
bags over Lew's head and body. Then George tied a



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THE CASE OF ROLAND PENNINGTON 51

cloth around the neck overtop the bags. Then he told
me to hitch the horse Dick to the milk wagon. I did
so. Then I returned to the new horse stable. George
then said we will carry him up to the wagon. I had
left it in front of the wagon house at the bam. George
said, "We had better take him up through the bam."
George took him by the head and shoulders and I by
the feet. We carried him up through the bam. When
we got to the wagon, George got some bags and put
them on the floor of the wagon. Then we put the body
in. Then we got a blanket and threw it over the body.


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Online LibraryHenry Herbert GoddardThe criminal imbecile; → online text (page 3 of 9)