In the first of an ongoing series asking WCI contributors to weigh in on cases and issues, we posed the question: While not legally insane, some murderers have other types of mental illnesses, personality disorders and the like. Should those be considered when deciding guilt/innocence? What about sentencing?
Read on, to find out what WCI's bloggers think about this important issue:
Laura James: A defendant's "personality disorder" falls under the "so what" category for me. I'd bet half the people I know could be diagnosed with a "personality disorder."
Kathryn Casey: It’s not relevant. We're not talking about severe mental illness here, where someone doesn't understand the difference between right and wrong, which is the legal test for insanity. These people are capable of working with attorneys to defend themselves, although their frequent tendency toward pathological lies can get in the way. (It's not smart to lie to one's own lawyer and leave him/her unprepared.) Lots of folks have personality disorders, yet they don’t commit murder. Should this come up at all, it should be in sentencing. I honestly think severe poverty and childhood abuse are more mitigating factors.
Andrea Campbell: I do believe that the mentally ill fall into a crevice when it comes to society. No one wants to claim or protect them most of the time. And I do think their mental condition should be made known during trial. But I don't think we need to cut slack for heinous crimes or felonies. I've always been torn on this issue, but justice needs to keep dangerous people out of society. I guess that either means a mental health facility or incarceration.
Diane Fanning: Murderers, with anti-social personality disorder, narcissistic personality disorder and perhaps even borderline personality disorder, are people who understand the difference between right and wrong but just don’t care about the law, about the people around them, or about their victims. A violent offender with one of these disorders is a danger to society but also to those who guard them in prisons. They should not be viewed as equal to a person suffering from severe mental illness, who if given proper treatment and medication may be able to lead positive and productive lives. Adults with severe personality disorder are unlikely to ever move beyond their condition and thus, it should have no bearing on guilt or innocence.
In sentencing, juries should consider the personality disorders of violent offenders, but not to mitigate the offenses. Instead, it should help deliver sentences that ensures these individuals are not allowed to roam free and prey on innocent victims.
Robin Sax: Everyone who commits a murder MUST have a personality disorder; the personality disorder makes him a murderer who should be punished.