Justice for Mrs. Lincoln
Mary Todd Lincoln finally had her day in court – nearly 135 years after she was tried for lunacy in a Chicago courtroom. “The Insanity Trial of Mrs. Abraham Lincoln” was developed by David Weinberg, who produced a modern-day version of the trial on behalf of ABA’s General Practice Solo and Small Firm Division during the association’s 2009 Annual Meeting in Chicago.
This time, though, Mary Todd Lincoln was able to “speak” on her own behalf—through the efforts of lawyer-author Nancy Schleifer who wrote the book “A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln.” In her opening remarks, Schleifer stressed, “People should know that there was a first lady who was given a totally unfair trial.”
After performing what is called a “psychological autopsy,” Darlene Shelton, PhD, said that she turned to historical accounts and records for her diagnosis. Shelton said that while Mary Todd Lincoln suffered from post-traumatic stress and bi-polar disorders, she was not insane.
In 1875, after a finding of insanity, Mary Todd Lincoln was committed to the Illinois State Hospital. In 2009, audience members acting as jurors returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty.
“I’m happy she got a retrial,” said Schliefler.