Hearst, Patty

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Hearst, Patty

In the 1990s, she could be seen in John Waters's motion picture Crybaby, and heard as an off-screen caller to a radio talk show on the TV series Frasier. She had appeared on the runways of Paris as a fashion model, wearing a sequined evening gown designed by friend Thierry Mugler. Her story had been told as a movie, Patty Hearst, in which she was played by Natasha Richardson, and even as an opera, Anthony Davis's Tania. Ever since the 1970s, Patricia Campbell Hearst has been very much in the public eye.

On February 4, 1974, Hearst, the nineteen-year-old daughter of Randolph A. Hearst and Catherine C. Hearst, of the Hearst newspaper chain, was kidnapped by a tiny group of political extremists who called themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA). They locked Hearst in a closet for many weeks, where she was taunted, sexually assaulted, and raped repeatedly. The SLA held her for an unusual form of ransom: they demanded that the Hearst family distribute millions of dollars of food to poor and needy people of the San Francisco Bay area. Although the Hearsts complied with this and other SLA demands, the young woman did not return to her parents. Instead, she sent them a tape recording in which she announced that she had decided to become a revolutionary, join the SLA, and go underground.

On April 15, 1974, the members of the SLA, accompanied by Hearst, robbed the Hibernia Bank in San Francisco. A month later, a botched shoplifting attempt at a sporting goods store by SLA members Bill Harris and Emily Harris led the police to the SLA hideout. A gunfight ensued, and all six SLA members inside at the time were killed. Only Hearst, the Harrises, and Wendy Yoshimura survived.

Sixteen months later, and eighteen months after her abduction, Hearst was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation after an investigation that had covered the entire United States. She was tried by jury for armed bank Robbery, convicted, and sentenced to seven years in prison. On February 1, 1979, after Hearst had served approximately two years of the original sentence, President jimmy carter, stopping short of a full pardon, commuted her sentence.

Hearst claimed at her 1976 federal trial for armed bank robbery that she had, in fact, undergone no political conversion. She claimed that even as she stood in the Hibernia Bank cradling a rifle in her arms, she remained the same person who, only a few months earlier, had chosen the china and crystal patterns for her upcoming marriage. Her defense, orchestrated by her attorneys, f. lee bailey and Albert Johnson, was that she had been brainwashed. This defense did not exist in law and had only been attempted in "collaboration-with-the-enemy" charges against U.S. prisoners of war during the Korean War. As in the Korean War cases, the Hearst attorneys were forced to add a defense that was allowed by law: duress. The crux of the defense's case was that Hearst, owing to brainwashing or coercion, had not had criminal intent when she participated in the bank robbery.

Three defense psychiatrists testified that the defendant had not been responsible for her actions; two prosecution psychiatrists testified that she had been responsible. The young woman testified that she had been in fear of her life as she stood inside the Hibernia Bank. The judge instructed the jurors,

You are free to accept or reject the defendant's own account of her experience with her captors …. Duress or coercion may pro vide a legal excuse for the crime charged against her. But a compulsion must be present and immediate … a well-founded fear of death or bodily injury with no possible escape from the compulsion.

The jury found her guilty Beyond a Reasonable Doubt, thereby implicitly stating its belief that she had acted intentionally and voluntarily in robbing the Hibernia Bank; she had been neither brainwashed nor forced to participate.

In August 1987 Hearst filed a petition for a pardon before President ronald reagan. Her attorney, George Martinez, stated that "she wants to put it all behind her. And she wants to get some indication that there is now complete understanding by the government of the extraordinary circumstances under which she participated" in the Hibernia Bank robbery. In 1977, as governor of California, Reagan had called for executive clemency for Hearst; he was thus considered Hearst's best chance for a pardon. But Reagan left office in 1988 without granting the pardon. Hearst's petition then fell to george h. w. bush, who also failed to grant the pardon. Hearst finally received her pardon when she was among a list of controversial people, including Marc Rich, that President bill clinton pardoned on his last day in office.

In 1996, Hearst was a member of the Screen Actors Guild and lived just fifty miles outside of Manhattan with her husband and former bodyguard, Bernard Shaw, and her two children.

Further readings

"Clinton Defends Pardons, Saying Individuals 'Paid in Full' for Crimes." 2001. CNN (January 21). Available online at <www.cnn.com/2001/ALLPOLITICS/stories/01/21/clinton.pardons> (accessed on December 18, 2003).Freedman, Suzanne. 2002. The Bank Robbery Trial of Heiress Patty Hearst: A Headline Court Case. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow.

Practising Law Institute (PLI). 1985. Post Traumatic Stress Disorders, and Brainwashing as State of Mind Defenses in Criminal, and Civil Fraud Cases by David P. Bancroft. Litigation and Administrative Practice Course Handbook series: Criminal Law and Urban Problems, PLI order no. C4-4174.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
There has been a recent spate of books about radicals of the 1970s, doubtless a soothing counterpoint to our own continuing conflicts: "Surely, this too shall pass." Now we have Jeffrey Toobin's account of the 1974 Patty Hearst kidnapping.
As if to bolster this claim, in early chapters Toobin relates that Jane Pauley, in college, once was rescued from the attentions of a creep by a fellow coed who later went on to be one of Hearst's kidnappers; that the documentarian Errol Morris, in his student days, attended a dinner party at a pre-kidnapped Patty Hearst's apartment; that another future Hearst kidnapper, while behaving recklessly on a shooting range, attracted the notice of none other than future O.
San Francisco's Kevin Collins, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Student Kristin Smart, Brooke Hart and the Resulting 1933 San Jose Public Lynching, Heiress Patty Hearst, Petaluma's Polly Klaas and San Luis Obispo's Rachel Newhouse and Aundria Crawford.
Pundits prefer turning those over-oxygenated years into a kind of exotic folklore: Twiggy, the Beatles, Timothy Leary, Godard, Vietnam, Huey Newton, the Weather Underground, Patty Hearst. The mosaic of moods and movements that colored and shaped that period are flattened and made safe for our collective consumption.
It was just a few years after the Western World had been astonished by the phenomenon of Patty Hearst - the teenage heiress who was kidnapped by terrorists but then decided to join their cause.
Another dog experts say to watch is a shih tzu called Rocket co-owned by famed and infamous heiress Patty Hearst, who won the toy group Monday night at Madison Square Garden.
News and sport | Former hostage Patty Hearst is photographed wielding a gun while robbing a bank in San Francisco.
There is also a fascinating account of Fortunate Eagle's role in the Patty Hearst saga, but the book is not all civil-rights battles or stories that carry historical significance; there are many that simply aim to entertain, even as they illuminate "Indian wisdom." As if readers were sitting and listening to Fortunate Eagle around a campfire or at a powwow, his voice comes through as intimate and genuine, and even though this means dialect usages that are occasionally a bit strange, grammatical errors like using "drug" for "dragged," or jokes that sometimes misfire, they add to the overall experience nearly as much as they detract.
As most are aware, I spent almost all my daily newspaper career at the San Francisco Examiner, which in the wake of Patty Hearst's kidnapping had guards at the front door to keep the community out, so I find the notion of outreach foreign at best.
"This dog is my Patty Hearst," he quips, "except I'm not going to bag it, keep it in a closet, and make it rob a bank." Seven Psychopaths falls agonisingly short of In Bruges but is nevertheless an entertaining ensemble piece, which aims a shotgun squarely between the eyes of political correctness.
"This dog is my Patty Hearst," he quips, "except I'm not going to bag it, keep it in a closet, and make it rob a bank." Farrell is somewhat bland as the Irish lead, but Walken, Rockwell and Harrelson savour their colourful supporting characters, whose fates become inextricably entwined in the desert.