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To the defendants other than Fischer and Engel, as well as to his lawyers and the Defense Committee, Louis Lingg was unpleasant, inscrutable, and unpredictable, always an obstacle to drumming up public support. He remained true to form to the end.

On Sunday, November 6, five days before the execution, a search of Lingg's cell uncovered four six-inch pipe bombs. Who passed these to him, when, and by what means is uncertain, though the evidence points to Dyer Lum. Lucy Parsons accused the police of planting the bombs, suggesting sarcastically that Lingg's girlfriend Elise Friedel had perhaps smuggled them in her bustle. The discovery of the explosives caused a rearrangement of the prisoners' cells, with Lingg being put where he could have no physical contact with anyone but his jailers.

This news of the bombs angered those gathering signatures in support of clemency, who felt that it would make their work harder. In a last attempt to save Lingg's life and perhaps assist the other defendants, some of the anarchists' closest supporters (including four members of Spies's family) tried to get Lingg declared insane.

On November 9 they enlisted physician James F. Kiernan in filing this petition to summon a jury of six men to make a determination on Lingg's mental condition. If the petition had been accepted, Lingg's execution would have been postponed. Attorney General Grinnell filed a counter-motion to dismiss the petition, and a judge quickly upheld Grinnell's position. The papers reported that the petitioners were seeking another judge who would be more receptive, but they did not succeed in doing so.

This ploy, one more Haymarket sideshow, was evidently produced and directed by an Irish-born attorney named Vere V. Hunt, who burst into a courtroom while another proceeding was in progress to present the petition. Hunt supposedly also commented that he wished he could send a number of men like Lingg to Ireland "to throw bombs among the English landowners who are oppressing the Irish people."

Dr. Kiernan, who is listed in Alfred T. Andreas's History of Chicago as having been in the department of "psychological medicine and nervous and mental diseases" at Chicago Medical College, had also served on the staff of the insane asylum in nearby Jefferson (now part of Chicago). He had testified at the trial of Charles Guiteau for the murder of James A. Garfield that the president's assassin was insane.

Kiernan described Lingg's malady as "paranoia," stating that Lingg's views were the result of a mental defect with which he was born and which was not attributable to his political reading or activity. Kiernan volunteered that Albert Parsons was also insane, though he did not explain why there was no petition in his behalf. Kiernan's reasoning: "He is a proud Southerner who married a negress, and because society will not receive her he wants to destroy all society. He has brooded over that so long that his mind is unsettled."