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Dr. Erich Schmidt-Leichner (October 14, 1910–March 17, 1983) was a German lawyer who made a name as a distinguished defense counsel at the Nuremberg Trials. In 1978, he was a defense counsel in the Klingenberg Case, where a married couple were accused of negligent homicide for failing to call a medical doctor during an exorcism of their daughter. In this case, Schmidt-Leichner unsuccessfully claimed that exorcism was legal as the German constitution protects citizens in the unrestricted exercise of their religious beliefs.
The Klingenberg case is a courtroom case involving the trial of two priests and the parents of Anneliese Michel. She had been diagnosed as a teenager with grand mal epilepsy and depression by a neurologist from the Psychiatric Clinic of Wurzburg; however, treatments had been ineffective, and Michel, her parents, and the priests believed that she was possessed by demons (Hansen 2005). In 1975, as an adult, she rejected further psychiatric care, sought an exorcism and began refusing to eat, believing that her death from starvation would atone for others' sins (Hansen 2005). Her parents and the two priests were charged with negligent manslaughter for failing to call a medical doctor when her refusal to eat threatened her life (Hansen 2005).
The trial started on March 30, 1978, at the Landgericht ("district court") Aschaffenburg. The prosecution claimed Anneliese's epilepsy was related to mental health problems causing hallucinations and delusions that took on religious meaning due to the beliefs of Anneliese, her family and her priests. The priests had attempted to exorcise Anneliese repeatedly but her symptoms continued. The defendants were ultimately found guilty of manslaughter through negligence and sentenced to six months on probation.
The case has been adopted into two films. The first was the 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose, by Scott Derrickson. A German-language film called Requiem, by Hans-Christian Schmid, was released in 2006 and stays truer to the real-life events.
- Eric T. Hansen (04 September 2005). "What in God's Name?!". The Washington Post. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/02/AR2005090200559_3.html. Retrieved 2009–05–27.
- Erich Schmidt-Leichner, Unrechtsbewusstsein und Irrtum in ihrer Bedeutung für den Vorsatz im Strafrecht, Breslau-Neukirch, 1935.
- Festschrift Für Erich Schmidt-Leichner Zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Rainer Hamm, Walter Matzke et al. 1977.