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Whole ‘nother Story — Was Mary Todd Lincoln Insane?

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Mary Todd Lincoln

Mary Todd Lincoln

Today, Kevin tells us about a new trial planned to re-examine the 1875 case against Mary Todd Lincoln —  using the latest insights on mental health… Will she take the witness stand?

 

 Mary Todd Lincoln insanity re-trials September 24 in Chicago and October 1 in Springfield will feature modern judges as the attorneys and audience members as the jury

 

 

CHICAGO  Was Mary Todd Lincoln insane? The troubled former First Lady, who was judged insane at an 1875 Chicago trial, will get another day in court  two days, in fact  as retrials on those charges using modern laws will occur Monday, September 24 in Chicago and Monday, October 1 in Springfield. A roster of well-known modern judges will serve as attorneys for the petitioner and respondent, and audience members at each location will decide Mrs. Lincoln s fate after hearing the arguments and testimony.

 

Auditorium seating for both events is no longer available. However, an additional 100 auxiliary seats at both the Chicago and Springfield events are available  these allow patrons to see live video of the re-trials projected on a large screen. These auxiliary tickets are $15 each and may be reserved through the event website, www.wasmarylincolncrazy.com. In addition, details concerning broadcasts of the re-trials will be finalized in the near future, allowing a much wider audience to view the proceedings.

 

The re-trials will take place at Chicago s Murphy Auditorium at 50 E. Erie at 5:30 p.m. on September 24 and at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield at 6:30 p.m. on October 1. The events are produced and sponsored by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

 

The re-trials of Mary Lincoln will occur in a courtroom setting to give her a hearing using current laws regarding her alleged insanity. The participants will use their own words and strategies to make their cases. Actors portraying Robert Lincoln and Mary Lincoln, in period costume, will testify, as well as an expert witness – a mental health professional – for each side. Following instructions to the jurors (the audience), Mrs. Lincoln s fate will be in the hands of those attending each event.

 

The Hon. Maureen Connors, who serves in the 2nd Division of the First District Appellate Court, will be the presiding judge at the September 24 Chicago re-trial. The petitioner, Robert Todd Lincoln, will be represented by Hon. Warren Wolfson,Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law at the DePaul University College of Law; and Hon. Erica Reddick,Cook County Circuit Court, Child Protective Division of the Juvenile Court. Mary Todd Lincoln, the respondent, will be represented by Hon. Lorna Propes,Cook County Circuit Court; and Hon. Mark Drummond, Circuit Court Judge in Adams County, Illinois. Expert witnesses will include Dr. Bennett L. Leventhal, Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at New York University and an internationally renowned psychiatrist; and Dr. James Cavanaugh, Professor of Psychiatry at Rush Medical Institute. Famed broadcast journalist Bill Kurtis will be the narrator for the Chicago event.

 

The presiding judge in the October 1 Springfield re-trial will be Hon. Michael P. McCuskey, Chief United States District Judge for the Central District of Illinois. Representing the petitioner will be Hon. Ronald D. Spears, Circuit Court Judgein Christian County, Illinois;

And Hon. M. Carol Pope,Appellate Court Judge for the Fourth District of Illinois. The respondent will be represented by Hon. Lisa Holder White, Macon County Circuit Judge and the Supervising Judge for the Criminal Law Division of the Sixth Judicial Circuit; and Hon. R. C. Bollinger,Associate Circuit Judge of the Sixth Judicial Circuit in Decatur. Expert witnesses will include Terry Killian, M.D, who has a private practice of general psychiatry in Springfield; and

Lawrence Jeckel, M.D., a board certified psychiatrist, forensic psychiatrist, and psychoanalyst in Champaign. Former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar will narrate the Springfield event.

 

Springfield resident Pam Brown will portray Mary Todd Lincoln at both re-trials. Brown has portrayed the former First Lady in numerous stage productions and in two National Geographic documentaries: Lincoln s Last Night and Secret Lincoln. Chicago actor Zach Kenney will portray Robert Todd Lincoln. He has appeared in numerous Chicago area productions at the Steppenwolf, Goodman, Biograph, American Blues, Victory Gardens, and TimeLine Theatres.

 

The re-trials are part of a year-long series of events marking Mrs. Lincoln s life and emphasizing the evolution of mental health laws in Illinois. Funds raised beyond the cost of the events will be used for the preservation of historic documents owned by the sponsoring organizations.

 

Mrs. Lincoln was tried in 1875 at the instigation of her son Robert on allegations of insanity, which ultimately led to her being declared a  lunatic and placed in the Bellevue Sanitarium in Batavia, Illinois. Mary Lincoln obtained an early release from Bellevue with the assistance of her friend, Myra Bradwell. One year after the original insanity trial another jury found her sane, restoring her legal control over her assets. Even today, historians disagree whether the evidence against the First Lady was  trumped up, whether the procedures used constituted due process, and what would occur if today s modernized health laws were applied to the same facts.

 

Another event in the series, the  culture of clothing, will feature Mary Todd Lincoln s life and fashions as a homemaker, the First Lady, and a widow in mourning after the loss of three sons and a husband. This special show will take place in the Driehaus Museum in Chicago on November 12, where the dresses she had made, the jewelry she wore, and the long lasting elements of design that she created will be used to demonstrate the changing roles of women through fashion. The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield will have a similar event on November 19. Tickets are $50 for the Chicago event and $25 for Springfield, and must be purchased in advance through www.wasmarylincolncrazy.com. Only a limited number of tickets remain for these two events.

 

A theatrical project bringing the relationship of Mary Lincoln and her advocate, Myra Bradwell, to life will be developed from their correspondence with Springfield actors Susan Jeffers and Aasne Vigesaa. Performance dates in Chicago and Springfield will be announced.

 

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (www.presidentlincoln.org) is the nation s largest and most visited presidential library complex, and immerses visitors in Lincoln s life and times. The Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission (www.illinoiscourthistory.org) assists the Supreme Court in acquiring, collecting, documenting, preserving, and cataloging documents and artifacts important to the history of the Illinois judicial system.

 

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