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10 Uses of the Insanity Defense


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Anthony and William Esposito
Anthony Esposito on Jan. 16, 1941, as he was brought before a police identification line-up. © Bettmann/CORBIS
Anthony Esposito on Jan. 16, 1941, as he was brought before a police identification line-up. © Bettmann/CORBIS

It was the New York police commissioner who would nickname brothers Anthony and William Esposito 'the mad dog killers,' a description that would catch on in the press. On Jan. 14, 1941, the Esposito brothers held up office manager Alfred Klausman for the $649 payroll he was carrying, shooting and killing him in the elevator of an office building in Manhattan. What followed was a spectacular mid-day gun chase along Fifth Avenue, with the pair running and shooting in and out of department stores and taxis -- William, shot in the leg, fell to the ground, and while pretending to be dead surprised, shot and killed the policeman who chased him. Fifth Avenue shoppers and pedestrians overtook William, beating him unconscious, and police arrested Anthony in a convenience store nearby.

During their trial, the brothers made an effort to convince the court they were insane; they barked, howled and made other animal noises, drooled and banged their heads on the table. But the barking and drooling wasn't compelling evidence to the jury, and the brothers were both found guilty of first-degree murder. The two continued their behaviors, including speaking in gibberish and undertaking a hunger strike, while incarcerated at Sing Sing until both were put to death by electrocution in 1942.


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