Jury convicts Philip Chism of first degree premeditated murder and aggravated rape

December 16, 2015

I expected this verdict because the evidence of premeditation was overwhelming. For example, Chism brought a ski mask, gloves, and box cutter to school the day he assaulted her in the women’s bathroom and slashed her throat with the box cutter.

The evidence of premeditation overwhelmed the defense effort to present an insanity defense. The evidence of premeditation established that he knew what he was doing and the evidence of his effort to conceal his identity and conceal her body in the nearby woods established that he knew that he had violated the law.

The jury properly acquitted him of a second count of aggravated rape based on what he did to her in the woods because she was dead. The proper charge would have been abuse of a corpse.

Chism will return to court on December 22nd to schedule a sentencing date.

Meanwhile, Chism faces a second trial in nearby Suffolk County where he is accused of attacking a female Department of Youth Services worker in June 2014. That case is scheduled to begin next Wednesday.

The Colleen Ritzer rape murder is an extremely disturbing case and Philip Chism is an extremely disturbed young man.


Craig Michael Wood’s conduct likely precludes insanity defense

February 23, 2014

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Good morning:

Actions speak louder than words.

Despite his claim of having suffered 40 to 50 blackouts, Craig Michael Wood probably cannot successfully claim insanity.

Insanity is a legal definition, not a medical or psychological definition. You won’t find it in the DSM.

The insanity defense focuses on a defendant’s mental state and requires him to admit committing the acts he is accused of committing.

Section 552.030 (1) of the Missouri Revised Statutes states:

A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect such person was incapable of knowing and appreciating the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of such person’s conduct.

Contrary to the fearful, delusional and fact-free claims of the right-wing-hate-machine, the defense is rarely successful because even so-called crazy and delusional people usually attempt to conceal the crime they committed and/or deny that they committed it.

Their actions speak louder than their words because their behavior demonstrates that they knew they were doing something wrong even if, for example, they thought God commanded them to do it.

Wood’s behavior would not likely satisfy the insanity defense because the circumstantial evidence of his premeditated intent and knowledge that he was committing crimes is so overwhelming as to leave no doubt in a reasonable mind that he was in full command of his faculties, if not his urge to rape and kill a child.

Even though Mr. Wood is unlikely to prevail on a claim of insanity, a claim of impaired mental functioning might still be available to use in mitigation.

One of the first tasks for defense counsel will be to put together a mitigation team with a lawyer and mitigation investigator knowledgeable about mental disorders and the best forensic experts available to test Mr. Wood’s brain functioning and diagnose his condition.

They will be looking for what death-penalty lawyers refer to as “a hole in the brain,” meaning an organic brain disorder or injury (as opposed to a personality disorder) that inhibits his ability to function normally and causes him to act out in a violent, unpredictable and uncontrollable manner.

It’s difficult for a juror to sentence a defendant to death for behavior he cannot control, even if he knows that his behavior is wrong and violates the law.

The problem for Mr. Wood and his defense team is that the Hailey Owens kidnapping and murder shows someone who appears to have planned what he did knowing that it was wrong and illegal. He carried out his plan during a period of approximately 3.5 hours, including an attempt to eliminate evidence and evade capture by executing his victim, cleaning up the crime scene and disposing of her body before the police arrived.

And then there is the child pornography and God only knows what may be recorded on his videos and dvds.

Difficult to imagine that he did not intend to do everything he did to Hailey Owens before he saw her walking home and kidnapped her.

I do not see any evidence of involuntary or unconscious behavior, such as one might expect to see if he has a hole in the brain.

Finally, when confronted by police when he arrived home, he tossed the roll of duct tape that he was carrying into the bed of his pickup truck.

That act suggests that he knew why they were there and he did not want them to notice or question him about the duct tape and what he intended to do with it.

Unfortunately for Mr. Wood and his defense team, his conduct and state of mind do not appear to mitigate what he did. Instead, they appear to aggravate it.

We will have to wait and see how this case works out.


Is Anders Behring Breivik Insane?

May 8, 2012

ABreivik

Flickr Creative Commons
Image by Oslo Politidistrikt’s Photostream

I. Introduction

Anders Behring Breivik has admitted to killing 77 people in Norway on July 22, 2011. He detonated a home-made fertilizer bomb that he placed in a parked vehicle next to several government buildings in downtown Oslo killing 8 people. Then he took a ferry to an island where he shot and killed 69 people, mostly teenagers, at a camp operated by the Worker’s Youth League of Norway’s Labour Party. He said he deliberately killed all of these people to protect the white race from multicultural infection by immigrants, principally Muslims.

He is on trial and the legal issue the court must decide is whether he was insane at the time of the offense.

If the court determines that he was insane, he will be placed in a secure mental health facility for an indeterminate period of time, subject to periodic reviews of his mental health to determine if he is safe to be released.

If the court determines that he is not insane, he will be sentenced to prison for a period of not more than 21 years. However, that sentence may be extended in 5 year increments, until such time as he is deemed safe to be released.

In neither case will he likely be released.

Norway does not have a death penalty.

Wkipedia reports:

Breivik was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia by the court-appointed psychiatrists. According to their report, Breivik acted compulsively based on a delusional thought universe. Among other things, he alluded to himself as a future regent of Norway pending a takeover by a Templar-like organization. Imagining himself as regent, his ideas included organizing Norwegians in reservations and using them in breeding projects. Other psychiatrists disagree that he is psychotic or schizophrenic, and on 13 January 2012, after much public pressure, the Oslo district court ordered a second expert panel to evaluate Breivik’s mental state. On 10 April 2012 the second psychiatric evaluation was published with the conclusion that Breivik was not psychotic during the attacks and he was not psychotic during their evaluation; rather he is an extreme narcissist.

(footnotes omitted)

Breivik claims he is not insane. He insists that he should be acquitted and released or convicted and sentenced to death.

To get a sense of his mental state, what he was thinking, and why he did what he did, please read the Wikipedia day-by-day trial summary of his five day testimony and the day-by-day trial coverage by the BBC.

(Caution: His testimony is graphic, chilling, and possibly disorienting)

Insanity is a legal definition and, therefore, a creature of legislative invention. It is not a recognized mental illness. Whether a person is insane when they commit a crime, depends on the statutory definition in effect in the jurisdiction where the crime was committed.

II. The United States

Several rules have been applied in the United States, although today, the M’Naughten test prevails in most jurisdictions.

A. M’Naughten Test

A majority of the states in the United States follow the M’Naughten Rule, which is based on a common law English case and requires proof of two elements, a cognitive and a volitional element:

Whether at the time that he committed the offense, the defendant

1. Was suffering from a mental disease or defect, such that he could not distinguish between right and wrong, (the cognitive element) and

2.. Conform his conduct to the requirements of law (the volitional element).

I do not believe there is any question that Breivik would be found sane in a jurisdiction applying the M’Naughten Rule because, regardless whether he was suffering from a mental disease or defect, he has admitted that he knew killing was wrong.

B. Irresistible Impulse Test

The irresistible-impulse test is a modification of the M’Naughten Test that retains the first prong (i.e., suffering from a mental disease or defect) but no longer requires that the defendant be unable to tell right from wrong, if, due to an irresistible impulse, he is unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of law. In other words, although he can distinguish between right and wrong, his mental illness eliminates his ability to choose how to act and his crime is the sole product of his mental illness. Alabama was the first state to adopt it in 1887.

C. Durham Test

The Durham test, which was developed in the 1950s, is similar to the irresistible impulse test. Under this test, a defendant is insane, if his crime was the product of his mental illness. That is, but for his mental illness, he would not have committed the crime.

The first team of mental health experts diagnosed Breivik as a paranoid schizophrenic acting “compulsively based on a delusional thought universe.” This diagnosis appears to satisfy both the irresistible-impulse and Durham tests.

D. Substantial Capacity Test

In 1962 a committee of judges, lawyers and professors selected by the American Law Institute developed the Model Penal Code (MPC) in an effort to rewrite and standardize the criminal laws in the United States. Since then, most states have adopted most, if not all of its provisions. Regarding the insanity defense, the Committee invented a new rule called the substantial-capacity test. According to Wikipedia,

Under the MPC standard, which represents the modern trend, a defendant is not responsible for criminal conduct “if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.” The test thus takes into account both the cognitive and volitional capacity of insanity.

Since the public outrage that followed John Hinckley’s insanity acquittal for his attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, most jurisdictions in the United States now follow the M’Naughten test and place the burden of proving insanity on the defendant

I think Breivik would be found insane under the MPC substantial-capacity test, although there is certainly a legitimate argument that, despite his mental illness, he retained both the capacity to know that what he was doing was unlawful (the cognitive element) and the capacity or ability to decide not to do it (the volitional element). The outcome under this test ultimately depends on what constitutes “substantial” capacity.

III. Norwegian Law

Whether a defendant is insane under Norwegian law depends on whether he was psychotic while committing the crime. That means the defendant has lost contact with reality to the point that he no longer was in control of his own actions. This test eliminates the volitional element of insanity and focuses entirely on the cognitive element.

IV. The Breivik Issue

Many people have disagreed with the first psychiatric report in the Breivik case (diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia) because his conduct demonstrated a considerable capacity and ability to premeditate over a lengthy period of time and carry-out a complicated scheme to commit mass murder. They ask whether a person who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia could do what he has admitted and boasted of doing.

Due to this concern, the court appointed a second panel to evaluate Breivik and it concluded that he was not insane. Rather than a paranoid schizophrenic, this panel concluded that he suffers from a narcissistic personality disorder, which is not a mental illness.

V. Does Breivik Suffer From Paranoid Schizophrenia With Double Bookkeeping?

While it is generally true that a person who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia would not be capable of the premeditation and planning exhibited by Breivik, there is a condition called “double bookkeeping” in which the patient lives in two worlds at the same time, the delusional world and the real world. Both worlds seem equally real to the patient who has no difficulty believing that other people do not see all that he sees or hear all that he hears. This condition was first identified by Bleuler.

If I were a judge in the Breivik case, I would be inclined to conclude that he is delusional and psychotic, particularly because he is so insistent that he is sane, as opposed to claiming insanity and attempting to act crazy to support his claim. At the same time, the vast majority of paranoid schizophrenics are incapable of his planning and actions. His ordinary or sane thinking seems narcissistic, so I am inclined to think he suffers from the relatively rare form of paranoid schizophrenia called double bookkeeping in which he suffers from both paranoid delusional thinking and a narcissistic personality disorder.

I would ask both teams of psychiatrists to comment on the possibility that I raise before making a decision, although I would be leaning toward a finding of insanity.

No matter the outcome of the debate, I doubt Breivik will ever be deemed safe to be released. However, the development of insanity law will likely be affected.

Finally, the quiet elegant dignity of the Norwegian people while according Mr. Breivik his right to due process of law is one of the most amazing and inspirational events I have ever witnessed.


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