Inside Her Head
By FRANCIS WILKINSON
Published: December 24, 2008
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, a year and 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
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.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: January 11, 2009
An essay in the "Lives They Lived" issue on Dec. 28 about the
psychiatrist Harry Kozol, who was a prosecution witness in the trial
of Patty Hearst, referred incorrectly to the timing of Hearst's
arrest for armed bank robbery while a member of the Symbionese
Liberation Army. She was arrested a year and four months not four
months after several core members of the S.L.A. were killed in Los Angeles.