Hearst, SLA, Hurst discussed on American Scandal

American Scandal


A long few days. Only two weeks in, people are already calling this the trial of the century. Hearst has had to sit in the witness stand, dissecting her own inner life in a courtroom packed with gawking members of the public. The trial has had the atmosphere of a zoo with Hearst feeling like an animal on display. Her defense attorney, F. Lee Bailey, said that this was all unnecessary part of the process. In order to win, they had to establish her state of mind, beginning with the moment she was kidnapped, and Hearst had to show how the threat of death was part of the daily fabric of her life, informing every one of her decisions over the course of months. Hearst robbed a bank, she doesn't deny it. But what they had to show the jury is that given her kidnapping and the chronic terror she felt, it's clear that she was coerced and is not culpable. So far, Hurst has gone along with the defense strategy. She's trying to stay clear of anything that would make her seem like a sincere convert to the SLA. But after days of testifying, hers can feel herself wearing thin. She's had to endure hour upon hour of intense questioning. And looking up at the prosecutor, Hearst can tell she's about to face another round of painful interrogations. Questions designed to trip her up and sway the 7 women and 5 men, sitting in the jury box. The prosecutor browning turns on his heels and begins his next round of questions. So, miss Hurst, we've heard of many instances where you had access to a telephone and even moments of privacy during your time with the SLA. Why exactly did you never call your parents or trying to return to them? I felt my parents wouldn't want to see me again. I felt ashamed of what I'd said about them on those tapes. And so you remained in a situation where the threat of death supposedly hung over you. Because you were worried your parents were mad at you, it's not that simple. And yes or no, miss hers. If you put it that way, yes, I guess. Good. Now, I'm gonna show you something. Brownie walks to the prosecutor's table and grabs a gun. Hearst recognizes the weapon, it's the one she'd carried when she and the SLA robbed the hibernia bank. Rounding sets the weapon in front of her, and Hearst picks it up and expecting it. Now, miss first, you look quite comfortable with that gun. How do you know that weapon was yours? By the stock and the bolt. Hearst freezes. She's made a mistake, revealing a sign of herself that she's been trying to avoid. Someone who knows how to handle a gun. But soon browning moves on from the gun and begins another line of questioning. Now, did you and mister William Wolfe, a man also known as cujo? Did you and mister Wolfe develop a relationship during her time with the SLA? You mean during my kidnapping? Miss hers, what was the nature of the relationship? I don't know what you mean. Was it a sexual relationship? I don't like to call it a relationship. What would you call it then? I don't like saying it out loud. We're trying to sort out the facts, miss Hurst. He raped me. The courtroom suddenly grows tense, but browning doesn't pivot. Was it forcible rape? I beg your pardon? I mean, did you struggle? Or did you submit because of fear? I didn't resist. No. Did you not say to others within the group that you thought highly of mister wolf? I didn't say that at all. Well then what exactly did you say? I said I had a strong feeling about him. And what was that feeling? For Hearst, this is excruciating. She's being forced to relive one of the most painful moments of her life. In front of a crowd of strangers. But she doesn't mince her words. Well, mister browning, it wasn't romantic. I couldn't stand him. I was just trying to survive. Hearst looks around the courtroom, seeing members of the public nodding, seeming to take her side. And when she turns back to the prosecutor, she can tell he's now uncomfortable. That feels like a small victory. For days, Hearst has been turned into an object of public scrutiny. She's felt her humanity slipping away. But finally, it seems that people are seeing her as a person again. Someone who survived a painful experience and who had to make complicated and difficult choices. It's a small measure of vindication, and there's another more consequential benefit. If the jury understands her perspective and experience, there's a chance Hearst will be able to walk away from this trial of free woman. Several weeks later, Jim browning watches as his assistant attorney David Bancroft rises from the prosecution table and begins his examination of their next witness. Doctor Joel Ford is a psychiatrist and an expert in human psychology. Browning brought the doctor into the trial because no matter how he tried to deliver the facts, the defense pushed back with the same argument. Underneath every one of her decisions, Patricia Hearst was terrified and never acting of her own free will. The defense has trotted out a group of psychiatrists, all painting a picture of Hearst as numb with terror, only joining the SLA to relieve the constant threats of death. They even had the gall to compare hers to a prisoner of war. By now, the prosecution can see where this trial is headed. It's becoming a never ending debate over something no attorney can prove what Patricia Hearst was thinking and feeling during her time with the SLA. And the jury seems like it's been swayed by the defense. So the prosecution is going to fight fire with fire. Browning assembled his own team of psychiatrists. His goal isn't to convince the jury one way or the other about Hearst's state of mind. He just hopes his experts will undermine the psychiatrist brought in by the other side, and that the cold, hard facts of the case, will finally take precedence. So at the prosecution table, browning sits listening, as doctor Ford begins painting a very different portrait of Patricia Hearst. He describes Hearst as a young woman prone to lying. A woman who strongly disliked her parents, who harbored serious doubts about her engagement to her fiance. The psychiatrist goes on to describe Hearst as a woman fundamentally desperate to find a sense of meaning in her life. Doctor Ford acknowledges that Hearst's kidnapping may have involved a period of frightening captivity. But he argues it also liberated Hearst from a life that had left her feeling trapped and gave her a sense of purpose. Hearing this assertion hearsts attorney F. Lee Bailey raises an objection, arguing that the testimony is outrageous, but the judge denied that request. Browning's assistant attorney continues with his examination, asking a series of probing questions about Patricia Hearst's credibility, as well as the likelihood that Hearst was a sincere convert to the SLA. As the questioning unfolds, Brown and glances at the jury box, trying to suss out their reaction. It's looking good, and they seem persuaded. And with more psychiatrists lined up in the coming days, browning starts to feel optimistic. This case isn't lost yet.

Coming up next