On the 19th of February in 1859, Daniel Edgar Sickles was acquitted of murder on the grounds of temporary insanity. It was the first time this defense had been successfully used in the US. Sickles was an American politician who was surrounded by controversy and scandal, starting with his marriage to Teresa Bagioli when she was 16 and he was 33. The New York State Assembly criticised him for his relationship with prostitute Fanny White. He reportedly took the prostitute with him to England (leaving Teresa behind) and presented her to Queen Victoria under a false name.
Meanwhile, Teresa took up with the district attorney Philip Barton Key, the son of Francis Scott Key who composed the “Star Spangled Banner”. Although Sickles approved of the friendship, he became outraged when he received a “poison pen letter” informing him of Teresa’s affair with Key. Teresa confessed that she had been secretly meeting him in a house on 5th Street. The following day, Sickles shot his wife’s lover in Lafayette Park across the street from their home, where Key was apparently signalling Teresa with a handkerchief.
His lawyer put forward that Sickles had the right to defend his property, that it was justifiable homicide and that Sickles had been temporarily driven insane by his wife’s detailed confession. The defense was successful.
“There can be no excuse for the adulterer. He commits a three-fold crime: a crime against the woman whom he misleads, a crime against the man whom he dishonors, a crime against society which he disorganizes… In these latter days experience proves that in all such cases society will justify the infliction of the last penalty by the husband. Whatever may have been the character of Mr. Sickles, there is not a jury in the United States or in Europe which would convict him even of manslaughter. In the face of so decided a public sentiment, is it worth while to argue further on the question?”
—Harper’s Weekly, March 12, 1859, p. 162
The local newspapers proclaimed that Sickles was not a criminal, he was a hero. Key, who was a known ladies man could no longer mislead the wives of Washington and Sickles was right to challenge his enemy.
The jury agreed and Sickles was acquitted. Sickles forgave Teresa, much to the dismay of the public and he was denounced by the newspapers who had proclaimed him an American hero. Their reconciliation was considered outrageous where the murder and acquittal were not.
Meanwhile, on the 19th of February 2011, these great photographs were taken by SatScene submitters all over the world.
You’d have to be crazy to shoot them down!
These are the Twitter users who have confessed to taking the photographs:
And hey you, yes you!
Take a photograph on Saturday!
(To be included in Saturday Scenes, just send an @reply to SatScenes with a link to the photo and the location. We’d love to see your corner of the world!)