|Woodcarving of the execution of werewolf Peter Stumpfe|
What's interesting about this story is that the plea of "not guilty by reason of being a werewolf" is a very old legal defense with a strong precedent. For centuries people convicted of particularly violent or abhorrent crimes including rape, murder, cannibalism and graverobbing (and combinations thereof) have, at their trials, claimed to be werewolves and had their sentences commuted. It is a kind of "diminished capacity" or "insanity" defense, although it has very specific features, chief among them the subject's modeling explicitly wolflike behavior. Depending on where the trial was held, who was jerking the reins of power at the moment, and which book on the occult the prosecutors happened to be reading, werewolves could be grouped as witches (fully culpable) to be tortured and burned at the stake, or forgiven morally of the crimes committed while a wolf but still considered culpable of willfully becoming a wolf (and so to be executed), or just sentenced to two years in the madhouse as was the case with Jacques Roulet in 1598. In the 16th century, there was suddenly a massive uptick in the number of crimes blamed on werewolves - tens of thousands over a period of about forty years. The early decades of the 17th century, however, saw a growing number of writers (including James I) who insisted that werewolfism, although certainly a common enough problem, was a psychological one, the product of an unstable mind rather than an unstable body. To this day, clinicians consider lycanthropy or therianthropy to be a valid, serious psychopathological condition.
|Fig. 1. Not exactly "full."|