Brainwashing has never been used successfully as a defense in a federal court, as far as Justice Department officials can determine. However, some highly respected psychiatrists feel that the coercive practices described in Patty Hearst's affidavit, if they actually occurred, could have changed her personality so completely that she would have willingly joined the S.L.A. and taken part in its violent crimes. Technically, Patty's main defense may be mental incapacity or coercion, but the plea would be closely akin to brainwashing.

Patty said that she felt totally controlled by her captors. She claimed that she was isolated for long periods of time,...

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