LAW & CRIME

I Have Struck Mrs. Cochran with a Stake: Sleepwalking, Insanity, and the Trial of Abraham Prescott

Kent State Univ. Oct. 2020. 244p. ISBN 9781606354094. pap. $24.95. CRIME
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Rounds (I My Needle Ply with Skill)sheds light on the history of insanity and sleepwalking pleas in the U.S. justice system through the case of Abraham Prescott, an 18-year-old farmhand living in Pembroke, NH, who in 1833 assaulted his employers, Sally and Chauncey Cochran, in the middle of the night with an ax. Both survived and, accepting Prescott’s explanation that he had been sleepwalking during the attack, continued to keep him in their employ. Unfortunately, months later, Prescott killed Sally with a fence post while they were picking strawberries in a field. Again, Prescott claimed to have been sleepwalking, and his attorneys moved forward with a sleepwalking and insanity defense at trial, though such defenses had a poor track record of success. While the work is more academic than most true crime fare, Rounds makes an important contribution to the field, using the case to examine how the justice system has historically marginalized those with mental illnesses.
VERDICT Ideal for serious scholars of criminal history.

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