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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 49.djvu/254

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

are in the community a few individuals who, although of good natural disposition, are so weak that they can be used as passive instruments for the performance of crimes, there are probably very few of them; those few are seldom known; if known, they will seldom fall into the hands of a person inclined to abuse their weakness, and, if they do, the part played by the hypnotizer will frequently be detected.

But if the dangers of criminal suggestion do not appear serious, there is a real danger connected with its possibility. The plea of "emotional insanity" often adopted by sympathetic juries is becoming somewhat timeworn, and in hypnotic suggestion adroit lawyers may find an even more dangerous substitute. Suppose, for example, that A—— is accused of a crime for which no adequate motive can be shown. But B—— had a motive for its commission; B is acquainted with the phenomena of suggestion, A—— is known to be extremely suggestible, and B—— has had ample opportunity of influencing him. In such a case no amount of evidence that A committed the crime could set aside in my mind a "reasonable doubt" of A——'s guilt. The occasional escape of a criminal on this pretext I would not regard as a great matter, but the stigma which his acquittal would cast upon B——, a stigma not the less real because incapable of proof or disproof, is a serious thing.

A similar line of reasoning has been used once at least with what seem to me more happy results. On the 25th of January, 1888, a young married woman—Mme. G——, the wife of a French engineer living in Algiers, and said to be one of the most beautiful women in the country—was found lying dead not far from her home, with two bullets through her head. Near by lay a man named Chambige, a friend of her husband's, seriously wounded but living. Chambige claimed that Mme. G—— had been in love with him and he with her, and that they had agreed, in view of the hopelessness of their passion, to die together; he had shot her first and then himself. There was not a shred of evidence to show that Mme. G—— had ever had more than a friendly regard for Chambige, mingled perhaps with the pity a happy woman feels for a lonely and disappointed man. To all appearance she had always been a most loving and virtuous wife, with no thought for anything but her husband and children. It was proved that on the day of her death she had seemed as placid and cheerful as usual, showing not a sign of mental perturbation; that she was in the highest degree hypnotizable and suggestible, and had frequently unwittingly hypnotized herself by looking too long at a fixed point. It was also shown that Chambige had been madly in love with her, that he probably was acquainted with hypnotism, that he was a restless and unbalanced spirit