Psychiatric Evaluation?????

Laib, Steve A41 at MDBE.COM
Fri Sep 1 14:01:00 MDT 1995


 ----------
From: Laib, Steve
To: owner-rushtalk; Cindy Brewbaker
Subject: RE: Psychiatric Evaluation?????
Date: Friday, September 01, 1995 10:40AM
 
Cindy Brewbaker Wrote:
 
I believe I pondered the psychiatric evaluation thing long enough (most of
my life) that I'd like to hear some thoughts on the issue.  I truly don't
understand why when someone commits a crime or wrongful act, that the
accused must be "psychiatrically evaluated" (PE).  (snip)
 
My question is, what must be evaluated?  It's pretty obvious to me that this
guy, and anyone for that matter, who commits any kind of crime is mentally
unstable; they do not play w/a full deck, their marbles are loose, all their
candles are not lit, they have a short circuit, etc..  To my thinking, a
mentally stable person would not commit such crimes.  (snip)
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     The reason for psych evaluations goes back to the idea that a
person who is mentally ill may not be in full possession of their faculties;
 that they may well be out of touch with reality.
     A person who is not in touch with the real world has traditionally been
found not responsible for their own actions.  An interesting case in point,
was where an otherwise normal person went to a party where he was
given food laced with PCP.  Of course he went berserk, and committed a
series of illegal acts while under the influence of the drug.  The court
held
him innocent on appeal, based on the fact that he had not known that he
was taking the drug, and had committed the acts under its influence, and
was not in control of himself.
     Compare this to a person who suffers from paranoid delusions and
attacks a neighbor whom he perceives as hostile.  It the paranoid man is
truly ill, then he cannot make rational decisions or act in a sensible
manner.
The court will, if it follows the letter of the law, find him not guilty by
reason of
mental illness, and probably send him to a hospital for care.
     Most psych evaluations which I hear of (and I am not a criminal lawyer)
come up in cases of violent crimes where we have civil rights advocates
blaming child abuse, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other similar causes
for the perpetrator's behavior.  The advocates are trying to press the idea
that the criminal is mentally incapacitated, and cannot criminal behavior
patterns.
     I disagree with this approach.  In many instances it is misused.  Take
the Menendez murder trial for example or the Dan White "Twinkie Defense".
But more to the point, it is being used in a wide array of high profile
cases of violent crime where the death penalty might be invoked.  Mental
illness is being found in a wide array of situations not originally
contemplated in the law, and the result
is not beneficial to society or to crime control.  It also makes a mockery
of the
justice system.
 
     I must take a modest level of issue with your contention that a person
who
commits a crime may be mentally ill.  There are many people who look at
crime as a business.  They are the upper level drug dealers, career
burglars,
forgers, and other people who are "part of the system," and look at jail
time
in the same way we would look at a business failure.  It is the downside
risk
of the venture.  In another and more frightening situation, some inner city
gang types appear to have developed their own culture based on violence
and rejection of "normal" social mores.  None of these people display the
typical signs of psychological disorders.
     And, to place the above in context with your question about people who
have something to hide, are they mentally ill, or are they simply trying to
make
a few dishonest dollars?  (Like the Clintons, who have made thousands
illegally)
Then again, how about the broad daylight purse snatcher, or mugger.  The guy
 
who commits his crimes in broad daylight (or at least in public), and makes
no attempt to hide them.
 
     As you can see, this is not a totally simple issue.  I must agree that
there
should be major changes to the way this traditional rule is handled today.
 I
agree that mental instability should not be used as an excuse for crime,
nor should it be used to get off someone who is obviously guilty.  One way
to do this may be through an independent panel which is charged with making
a binding evaluation, and which is paid to get to "the truth", if that is
possible
in this "soft science".
     This is an important issue, and I believe that in the future it
will become more so.  With the proliferation of violence in the
entertainment
media.  This, combined with the promotion of blatant sexuality in society
(we
recently had a reported case of a 10 year old committing a rape) will
likely spawn a series of claims that people can't control themselves, or
suits against the media producers for causing this behavior.
 
     Any lawyers out there want to make some money?
 
Steve Laib
Atty. and Philosopher



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