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Old 05-07-2003, 03:19 PM   #1
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A valid defence for murder

I have been reading more and more recently about people commiting acts of violence and using "paranoid schizophrenia" as their defence.

How can someone who suffers from this disorder deal with it in such a way that they no longer have it..I was under the impression that when you suffer from such a disorder, you only mask it through medications..medication that can curb the thoughts but not rid you of them entirely...

and is it not true that most paranoid schitzophrenics will take themselves off their medication when the feelings have subsided..which then allows the feelings to resurface...

How can one use this as a valid defence..and more importantly how can a court of law accept that defence and allow for complete discharge from the crime that they commited..just because the person feels good about themselves..today...

I just dont get it...
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Old 05-07-2003, 03:35 PM   #2
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I definitely don't claim to be an expert on this subject so I hope someone corrects me where I'm wrong.

You're right that schizophrenia is usually treatable but not curable so while a person can be give medication to treat symptoms of the disease, the underlying illness will still be there. However, I'm not sure it's accurate to say that most people will cease taking their medication once symptoms subside - I'm sure that is a problem for some people, but I don't think it means that it's impossible for a person suffering from schizophrenia to be treated successfully.

As for how can it be used as a defence in court - if a judge determines that a person has committed a crime because of a mental illness, it doesn't mean that person walks free, it means that person is usually referred to treatment as opposed to jail term. Certainly where I'm from (UK) people who are diagnosed as suffering from a severe mental illness which causes them to commit a crime are often sentenced to spend a length of time in a secure hospital.

What good would sending a person with schizophrenia to jail be if they can't receive treatment for their illness in jail and so would simply serve their sentence and then be released without ever having received medical help?
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Old 05-07-2003, 03:36 PM   #3
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I just wanted to add that of course if you were talking about people falsely claiming to be suffering from schizophrenia in order to avoid being convicted of a crime, then none of what I said above really applies.
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Old 05-07-2003, 03:42 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by FizzingWhizzbees
I just wanted to add that of course if you were talking about people falsely claiming to be suffering from schizophrenia in order to avoid being convicted of a crime, then none of what I said above really applies.
This is a huge gray area. When you have syndromes or disorders that are diagnosed by individuals, rather than biochemical tests, you open the door to fraud. It isn't hard for a lawyer to find an "expert" that will pretty much say anything in support of the case.
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Old 05-07-2003, 04:00 PM   #5
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When I say that most will go off their medications..I realize I am making a generalization..perhaps one that I shouldnt..but more and more I see people who suffer from this disorder..and it seems to happen that after prolonged use of medication, they feel well enough and the dillusions suffered prior to going on the medication have gone away..and in alot of these cases you read about..this seems to be the case..that alot of patients that suffer from this ailment..will conceal the fact that they have gone off the medications..and most people will not realize this to be the case..until they have lapsed back into the dillusional thought patterns..but I shouldnt generalize you are correct.

..this is part of an article that I was reading in an Ottawa newspaper about a man who's case is coming up for review...

The paranoid schizophrenic who shot and killed a popular Ottawa sportscaster eight years ago is hoping to be out on his own in three or four years.

Currently under a detention order at the Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene, Jeffrey Arenburg told an Ontario Review Board panel yesterday that he hopes the progress he's made with his mental illness will eventually earn him an absolute discharge.

Under a detention order, the review board can order him back into the hospital at any time. But an absolute discharge would allow him to be free in the community and give him no more contact with the board, which currently reviews his status annually.

'REASONABLE GOAL'

Since he has addressed the issues that contributed to his killing of Brian Smith in 1995 and has so far been successful in being gradually reintegrated into the community, neither lead clinician Dr. Nancy Mantle nor Crown prosecutor Gisele Miller believe that target is unrealistic.

"I think that's a reasonable goal," Miller told the panel.


It just seems to be common place to use this illness, and other illnesses as well, for example bi-polar disorder, and others..and I just dont understand how the law can justify this and make it valid...I mean even the crown see it as a viable defence..boggles my mind at times
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Old 05-07-2003, 04:08 PM   #6
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..and while I understand what you are saying about being send to jail without receiving proper medical care..that part I get..the part I dont agree with is allowing someone who commited a crime such as taking a life, I dont know it just doesnt seem just to me to allow that person to say talk to someone, get help, get rid of bad feelings, and then just leave and not be held accountable for their actions regardless of their frame of mind at the time..a crime is still a crime..isnt it..or are there justifiable and unjustifiable crimes...
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Old 05-07-2003, 04:18 PM   #7
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My cousin was paranoid-schizophrenic (diagnosed as such by many doctors) and constantly threatened to kill people, often waving a gun at family members. He finally killed himself instead. It's insane that after all those threats that the family did not remove the guns from the house. This is the redneck side of my family, btw (well, it's true...).

It's a bizarre illness.

Anyway...I agree with Fizzing.
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Old 05-07-2003, 04:19 PM   #8
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I definitely see what you're arguing, and to an extent I agree with the idea that "a crime is still a crime". But it doesn't hold true for every situation - is a murderer still a murderer if they committed the crime in self-defence? If a person is speeding because they're trying to get to the hospital to see a relative who's seriously ill, is their crime equal to that of a person who was speeding because they like to drive fast? Should a person who committed a crime because of mental illness be punished in the same way as a person who committed a crime out of jealously or out of anger?
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Old 05-07-2003, 04:56 PM   #9
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Is not murder the "unlawful" taking of a life.


Self-defense is not murder.

Killing someone while reckless driving is manslaughter.

And I believe there are degrees of manslaughter.

Jealousy, anger can be a mitigating factor in sentencing, I think.


Temporary inanity is a defense that many believe is abused.

In the state of CA we had the “Twinkie Defense”

A killer claimed diminished capacity from eating too many pastries that elevated his blood sugar and ability to reason. He received a reduced sentence and was out after serving ....

See below:
Quote:
On November 27, of 1978, Milk was murdered in San Francisco City Hall as was Mayor George Moscone. On that day, former City Supervisor Danny White crawled through a basement window of the building to avoid metal detectors. White had resigned his seat on the Board following the enactment of the Gay Civil Rights bill that he had opposed.

White was convicted of two counts of voluntary manslaughter and sent to prison for seven years and eight months. This stunningly light sentence was granted in response to what is now referred to as the "twinkie defense". White's attorney argued that the defendant could not be held accountable for his actions due to the amount of junk food he had eaten on the day of the crimes. White was paroled after six years in prison and committed suicide shortly thereafter.
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Old 05-07-2003, 05:32 PM   #10
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It is true that where the defendant claims to have been suffering at the time of the offence from some sort of mental disturbance or impairment, then automatism, insanity, and, in murder cases, diminished responsibility may all be considered (though simple anger and jealousy by themselves will not be considered as an effective defence - atleast not in British Law), however - it should be noted that insanity will not provide a defence to crimes of strict liability.

Again, it is true that the pleading of insanity is a very easy way to open the floodgates to everyone pleading as such, and it is, unfortunately, very true that lawyers can easily acquire doctors or experts of the sort who will vouch for the defendant. However, (and I am solely speaking of British Law, I am not altogether sure how it applies to American law) there are a series of tests and considerations (some quite strict, I believe) that can narrow things down - and even then, it is not a complete defence for some scenarios. You have to prove disease of mind at the time of the offence (and this is not a medical question to be proven, but a legal one), what type of disease (external or internal - internal being measured relatively sctrictly), proving the defect of reason, the physical nature and the quality of the act and perhaps the greatest blow to the whole defence; knowledge that the act is wrong. If the supposed 'insane' defendant is found to have actually acknowledged that the act was wrong (legally wrong will suffice in courts, as opposed to morally wrong) then he or she can pretty much say goodbye to the defence of insanity, as it has been seen in case law time and time again.

I think that it is reasonable to expect a defence to go through such tests, if not even stricter ones. I think it is inconsistent to lock away sexagenarian (yet perfectly sane) defendants for shooting trespassing burglars and to make it easy for perfectly good 'performers' to walk away scott free because the law is too lenient. Then again, who ever said the law was consistent?

Ant.
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