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Patty H

December 28, 2008
Harry Kozol | b. 1906

Inside Her Head

Patty Hearst did not like Harry Kozol. “I think Dr. Kozol’s testimony caused her more distress than anyone else’s,” wrote her attorney, F. Lee Bailey, in The Ladies Home Journal. In her own memoir, Hearst recalled Kozol as an elderly man with “a high, squeaky voice” who had reduced her to “hysterics” within minutes of their introduction.

Distress, hysterical and otherwise, had been Kozol’s life work from 1934, when he graduated from Harvard Medical School, until he retired from neurology and psychiatry five decades later. Kozol elicited enormous trust in some patients. Eugene O’Neill saw him almost daily in the final years of his life, relying on Kozol so extensively that O’Neill’s wife would call Kozol some evenings to plead for a house call.

In addition to his successful private practice in Boston, Kozol operated in a grim arena marked by extreme violence. He directed a state treatment center for the psychotic and dangerous, where he treated rapists, murderers and other violent criminals, including Albert DeSalvo, the confessed Boston Strangler.

Kozol, who attended Harvard Law School for two years before switching to medical school, was also a pioneer in forensic psychiatry, the expertise that brought him to San Francisco in 1976 to serve as a prosecution witness in the Hearst case.

The heiress, 21 at the time, was accused of willingly participating in an armed bank robbery as a member of the Symbionese Liberation Army, a rump of left-wing radicals who kidnapped Hearst from her Berkeley apartment in 1974. The S.L.A. divided its romantic attachments between poor people and short-order tactical violence ostensibly committed in their behalf. For a brief, manic time, however, the S.L.A. possessed something no other band of hapless ideologues could match: namely “Tania,” which was the nom de guerre Hearst adopted on the lam. You didn’t need to be William Randolph Hearst, the publisher whose tabloid sensibility earned the family fortune, to recognize that “Heiress Joins Revolution” made irresistible copy.

The headline played less well in court. There wasn’t much dispute about the key facts: a security camera confirmed that a gun-toting Hearst robbed a bank with the S.L.A. Likewise, Hearst was seen blasting away at a sporting-goods store to free two S.L.A. colleagues caught shoplifting. So the trial concerned her state of mind. Was she, as F. Lee Bailey said, a victim of coercive persuasion, brutalized, fearing for her life and doing as she was told? Or, as the prosecution maintained, was she a wealthy, bored young woman seduced by radical violence? It all came down to psychology.

Hearst remained underground long after six core S.L.A. members perished in a Los Angeles house after a firefight with the police. By the time she was finally apprehended, four months after her comrades’ deaths, Hearst had parted company with Bill and Emily Harris, two of the gang’s leaders, who were still alive. No one held her captive.

Kozol, who was 69 at the time, interviewed Hearst in jail. After a single encounter, Hearst tried to have Kozol removed from the case, claiming he was abusive. Kozol countered that he treated Hearst in “the gentlest manner.” The judge found him more persuasive.

Kozol interviewed Hearst five times, concluding that she was a product of an unhappy childhood, resentful of her wealthy socialite parents and disenchanted with her fiancé, with whom she lived before being kidnapped. At the time she was abducted, Kozol said, she was “embittered, discouraged, unhappy and ready to lash out.” In sum, she was “a rebel in search of a cause” — a characterization so apt the prosecutor reprised it in his closing argument — “and that cause found her.”

When Kozol testified, the journalist Shana Alexander wrote, Hearst turned “the dead white color of a fish’s belly.”

Though Kozol failed to win Hearst’s trust, he appeared to have won the jury’s. His testimony contributed to her conviction, which was followed by a sentence of seven years, later commuted. During one of his pretrial interviews with her, Kozol asked Hearst to draw a floor plan of the San Francisco apartment where she had been held captive by the S.L.A. Hearst’s defense was based on a claim of “traumatic neurosis” suffered as a result of weeks spent bound and blindfolded in a closet in the apartment, where she also claimed to have been sexually assaulted. Kozol found Hearst’s rendering of the apartment significant. She drew circles to represent the rooms and marked the locations of the windows and bathroom along with the place where the S.L.A. kept its arsenal. But she neglected to include the narrow hold that had, she said, constituted her sole vantage on this explosive new world. In Kozol’s view, Hearst’s omission confirmed the prosecution’s thesis: Returning the embrace of the S.L.A., she had ceased to be a victim. The rebel had come out of the closet.
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