The trial of Abner Baker, Jr., MD: monomania and McNaughtan rules in antebellum America.

R. White,
Bull. Amer. Acad. Psychiatry & the Law 18(3): 223-34, 1990.
On the third of October 1845, in a small mountain community in Kentucky, Abner Baker, Jr., MD, was executed for the murder of his brother-in-law Daniel Bates. At the trial Baker's attorney argued unsuccessfully that at the time of the crime the accused suffered from monomania, a form of mental disease, and therefore should not be held responsible for the act. The trial bears historical significance by the fact that it took place only a year after the formation of the Association of Medical Superintendents of American Institutions for the Insane, the first professional organization of psychiatrists in the United States, and two years after the McNaughtan ruling in British jurisprudence which molded the insanity plea around the concept of "knowing right from wrong." Because it took place at this particular juncture in the history of both law and medicine, it provides a revealing portrait of how medical and legal concepts on insanity interacted with the indigenous social and political circumstances of antebellum America.