I am often asked by the media to comment on cases where mothers have harmed or killed their children. I frequently am called by attorneys asking for help in their cases where a mother has killed her child.
Because of my work in the Andrea Yates case it is hoped that I may be able to offer some psychiatric defense for other defendants. If the alleged murderer was suffering from psychosis then a verdict of Not Guilty by reason of insanity may be successful. Many attorneys wrongfully assume (or hope against hope) that if the mother they represent has killed her child then she must be "crazy." I am sure she is "crazy" in some form, but not always in a way that mitigates her responsibility for the crime.
In the Casey Anthony case we have a mother who allegedly killed her child, stored her daughter's body in the trunk of the car, and then began to party. Only when questioned did she report that her daughter had been missing for some time.
Unlike Susan Smith, we never saw her on television begging for her child's return. We did see her at the disco and at Target, acting as if life couldn't be better. Even if she didn't murder her cute-as-a-button daughter, why is she acting so blase about the fact that her daughter is missing? Unexplainable.
1. Psychosis: A person hears voices telling them to harm their child or has a delusion that makes them believe their child needs to be saved from evil or their child is evil and the world needs to be saved. This was true in the Andrea Yates case; she believed her children were being taken over by Satan, and in order to save them from hell she had to send them to heaven while they were still innocent enough for God to take them. This can happen to women who become psychotic for the first time after delivery, or in patients who have previous diagnoses of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. This can be prevented with appropriate psychiatric intervention and medication. Mothers can be treated and children do not have to die.
The Mother's Act in Congress failed but will be brought out again for another vote. This law would require more money be earmarked for the recognition of, treatment for, and research of postpartum psychiatric disorders. (If only it been part of the "pork" in the bailout, like the Parity bill which mandates insurance companies pay equally for psychiatric illnesses.)
Early childhood intervention to prevent child abuse, neglect, ensure quality education and day care, and support for single mothers could go a long way towards decreasing the incidence of antisocial personality disorders. Susan Smith could have benefited from intensive therapy and intervention by someone to stop the abuse by her stepfather. We have the means and the knowledge to stop some of these heinous crimes.