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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk


The New York Times
December 21, 1922

Out of 23 Persons Examined Three Are Found to Be of Inferior Intelligence.


One Man Could Not Differentiate Between the "Stop" and "Go" Signs at Street Crossings.

DETROIT, Mich., Dec. 20.—Twenty-one persons charged with driving their automobiles faster than the law allows, and two others charged with driving through safety zones were examined by Dr. A. L. Jacoby, City Psychiatrist, today to determine their sanity.  The examinations were ordered by Judge Charles L. Bartlett in Recorder's Court and sentences were withheld until the Court had received the psychiatrist's report.

Three of those examined were pronounced inferior in intelligence by Dr. Jacoby.  They were ordered to return in one week for further examination.

According to the physician's report, one man charged with having driven his car thirty-two miles an hour was found inferior in intelligence, hard of hearing and possessed of poor eyesight.  Another alleged speeder was unable to read English and told Dr. Jacoby he could not differentiate between the "go" and "stop" signals at street intersections.

Fourteen persons who were pronounced mentally sound got jail sentences and were fined.  The sentences were mostly for one or two days.

Judge Bartlett said he had no intention of intimidating the public or make it appear that there are many mentally deficient persons driving automobiles, but that it was desirable for the sake of public safety to weed out those who are mentally incompetent and give them treatment, if necessary, rather than send them to jail.

"If the speeders are found to be weak-minded," the Judge said, "they will receive treatment usually accorded such unfortunates; if they are not weak-minded they will receive heavy jail sentences, being classed with other criminals."

Fatalities from street accidents here so far this year total 172, against 137 for the entire year 1921.

The new system had two interested, compulsory witnesses.  One was Catherine Barton, eighteen-year-old daughter of Henry L. Barton, construction engineer of the General Motors Corporation, and the other Bamler Kent, Chairman of the Port Development Committee of the Board of Commerce.  Both were arrested on charges of speeding.

Miss Barton, an attractive young girl, did not trouble to remove her galoshes during her day's stay "in prison."  An armful of books and her mother by her side helped her pass the sentence without any great strain.  The prisoner's box was her cell.

She had pleaded guilty to doing thirty-three miles an hour out Jefferson Avenue the night of Dec. 16, and had been sentenced to one day in the county jail and a $50 fine before the psychopathic tests started.  The Judge permitted her to do her sentence in the prisoner's box instead of going to jail.

When the tests got under way some one remembered her case, and it was suggested she be tested also.  Her attorney protested on the ground that the court had no authority to order such a test, as sentence had been passed.

Bamler Kent, 73 Elmhurst Avenue, Chairman of the Chambers Port Development Committee, was sentenced to jail for one day and fined $25 for speeding.  Judge Bartlett continued the case of Dr. L. W. Snow, Northville physician, arrested on a charge of speeding thirty-one miles an hour on East Jefferson Avenue, for one week.  Snow told the Court that on the night he was arrested he had come to Detroit for vaccine, in view of a smallpox epidemic in Northville.  He was accompanied into court by a Northville banker, and he also brought with him a Northville newspaper to support his story of the epidemic.

MOBILE, Ala., Dec. 20.—Jail sentences for speeders and reckless drivers of automobiles were authorized today by the City Commission when an ordinance was adopted giving the Police Court Magistrate that power.  The limit to the jail sentences is six months in addition to a fine.

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