It seems like many criminals have an excuse for their actions. However, few criminals resort to such far-fetched excuses as those of these criminals - that they were hypnotized when they committed their crimes.
Just 100 years ago, the defense that a killer was hypnotized while committing a crime was, in some instances, sufficient for a criminal to walk free. Many criminals who give a hypnosis defense claim to be helpless pawns of mind control, puppets of some powerful mastermind. It even has its own name - the Svengali defense. Whether the following "hypnotized" criminals were really victims themselves or not, you'll have to decide for yourself.
Susan Atkins was one of the most infamous members of the Manson Family cult. In 1969, Atkins and three others murdered the pregnant Sharon Tate and her friends in a Hollywood abode at the order of cult leader Charles Manson. The murder was one of the most grisly and famous in the history of American crime as it brought an end to the hippie movement of the '60s and showcased a deeply evil side of a modern cult.
While Atkins was convicted for her role in the murder of Sharon Tate, she never truly claimed responsibility for her actions - claiming she was "under the hypnotic spell" of Charles Manson at the time, but not in the way you might think. This type of hypnotism didn't involve a psychiatrist's chair, but instead involved a long, drawn-out type of brainwashing that cults have become so famous for following incidents like Jonestown and the Waco siege.
Atkins claimed that because she was deprived of food and water and constantly forced by Manson to consume LSD, he had essentially hypnotized her into a state of ultimate cronyism. She was left with no ability to think for herself. While there may be some validity to this claim, it certainly wasn't enough for the grand jury that convicted her. Whereas courts in the past had considered hypnotism grounds for acquittal, the modern jury did not - perhaps due to the extremely brutal, calculated details of the murders involved.
The murder of Kansas man Thomas Patton in 1894 was a highly unique case in the American courts. Local wealthy landowner Anderson Gray was embroiled in a legal case at the time, to which Thomas Patton was a witness against him. Gray resolved to kill Patton - but he wouldn't do the deed himself.
Gray went into the nearby city of Wichita, where he recruited a local farmer named Thomas McDonald. Allegedly, Gray hypnotized McDonald, handed him a rifle, and took him to Patton's house. McDonald then shot Patton to death.
A jury of McDonald's peers acquitted him. They instead convicted Gray of the murder, believing Gray's use of hypnotism to be the culprit and that McDonald had no control over his actions.
Los Angeles has long been the setting for dark, mysterious murders - but few share the same oddity as the murder of Jerome Ferreri at the hands of his wife, Betty, their handyman, Allan Adron, and a neighbor.
Jerome and Betty had been married and living in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles for several years. During that time, Jerome regularly beat Betty, causing her to regularly fear for her life. Jerome also cheated indiscriminately, often bringing women home with him. On one such occasion in 1948, Jerome came home with a model. Betty, wielding a pipe wrench, chased the couple away. Their handyman, Allan Adron, arrived to defend Betty, as did neighbor and local gangster Charles Fauci. Fauci gave Adron a gun, and when Jerome returned, Adron shot him twice. Betty finished Jerome off by striking his skull with a meat cleaver.
Betty, Adron, and Fauci were all found not guilty of the murder. Betty and Charles Fauci were both acquitted, and Adron, though he initially pled guilty, was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Two psychiatrists, working for the defense, argued that Adron had become hypnotized by the power of suggestion when he was handed the gun, and was thus hypnotized prior to shooting Jerome.
Augustin Gouffe, a Parisian bailiff, was well-known throughout the community for his impressive sexual exploits. One summer day in 1889, Gouffe was walking around town when he ran into his acquaintance Michel Eyraud. This chance meeting led Eyraud and his lover Gabrielle Bompard - who knew of Gouffe's extreme wealth - to hatch a murder plot against Gouffe by tempting him with a novel sexual exploit.
Eyraud invited Gouffe to Bompard's apartment on her behalf, saying the two had broken up and Bompard hoped to witness Gouffe's sexual abilities for herself. When he arrived, the woman seduced Gouffe while Eyraud waited behind a curtain. Above the curtain, a metal hook was affixed with a rope threaded through it. Bompard held a scarf in her hand, which she wrapped around Gouffe's neck in a flirty manner and attached to the rope. Once the scarf was attached, Eyraud pulled the rope, hanging and strangling Gouffe.
When Gouffe's body turned up on a river bank several miles south of the city, investigators managed to connect the crime back to Eyraud. Shortly thereafter, Bompard turned herself into police, insisting "Eyraud had forced her to act as his accomplice by hypnotizing her and enslaving her will." She detailed how Eyraud was practiced in the art of hypnotism, but the police were not convinced. Eyraud and Bompard were both sentenced to death.