Perspectives

Patty Hearst Recalls Thinking That Reasonable Doubt Would Keep Her out of Jail in Rare 1976 Interview

In the most recent episode of the wonderfully animated series Blank on Blank, the famously reclusive Patty Hearst opened up to veteran journalist Lawrence Grobel in 1976 about being kidnapped, her experience with the Symbionese Liberation Army, the abuse she suffered under the hands of her captors and how she held on to the hope that reasonable doubt would keep her out of jail.

I really thought we could have won the case until final arguments. we had virtually no closing argument, I think that’s where it was finally lost was right then. Ultimately [Crosstalk] they’ve got to prove reasonable doubt, reasonable doubt. Is it reasonable to assume that someone who has been locked in a closet for 57 days after being kidnapped and brutalized, raped, abused, then they say you’re going to rob a bank now? Is that reasonable to assume that that person had the free will to go out and willingly… I mean you’re talking about reasonable doubt.

The hard-won interview took place at the Playboy mansion.

Between the time the S.L.A. kidnapped her from her Berkeley apartment on Feb. 4, 1974 and her arrest nineteen months later on September 18, 1975, where she would eventually be sentenced to seven years in prison, Patricia Hearst, granddaughter of William Randolph Hearst, heiress to America’s largest privately owned media and land conglomerate, appeared on the covers of Time and Newsweek (as well as Rolling Stone, U.S. News & World Report, and dozens of other publications) over a dozen times, setting the record for most covers in the shortest time frame. …How I became the lucky journalist to get the Patty Hearst interview for Playboy after she had served two years in prison before President Jimmy Carter commuted her sentence is a story in itself.


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