Diminished mental capacity

There is a defense in the criminal justice system most commonly known as “The Insanity Defense“. As one might expect, it is being used more and more often lately, as the overall level of sanity continues to fall.

Not surprisingly, the defense remains a last refuge in capital cases, but is rarely used as a defense in lesser cases. It would seem obvious that in the majority of cases, sane people do not commit murder, and also that murder might be the least likely crime at which an insane perpetrator would be successful. Shouldn’t there be quite a few lesser offenses committed by crazy people?

In reality, the defense requires that the defendant be found lacking in the ability to discern between right and wrong at the time of the offense, which is a difficult hurdle for forensic psychiatrists. The effectiveness of an Insanity defense depends largely on the jury. In the Dan White trial, the insanity defense took another turn, in which a psychiatrist suggested that a junk food diet exacerbated his aberrant behavior. This became known as the “Twinkie Defense”, and Dan was found guilty of voluntary manslaughter rather than premeditated murder, despite the facts that he had entered City Hall carrying a gun, climbed through a basement window to avoid metal detectors, evaded Mayor Moscone’s bodyguard, reloaded after killing Moscone, and walked across City Hall to find and gun down Harvey Milk. In some form of Karmic justice, the psychiatrist was nearly killed by his wife who then committed suicide. I would have thought he would have kept twinkies out of the house. Dan White was released on parole just six years after the murders, and committed suicide shortly thereafter.

Vincent Gigante, AKA “The Oddfather”, feigned insanity for thirty years in attempts to provide for an insanity defense. “Chin” could be seen wandering about Greenwich Village mumbling to himself and walking in traffic. Eventually Sammy “The Bull” Gravano testified to the truth, and in this case, the jury was more than happy to believe he had been faking it. A friend of mine tried staging a future defense by consistently just passing his firearms qualification by a few points, when he was actually a superior marksman. His thinking was that when he instinctively ran a Mozambique drill on a threat,  he could claim that they were just “lucky shots”.

Numerous other cases have torn at the nations heartstrings, mothers who killed their children have used the defense after Andrea Yates used the “postpartum depression” approach. Andrea remains in the hospital, others have been set free after short treatment.

Bradley Manning may have a good shot at having his sentence reduced, if he can get his appeal before the right jury. Asking the person who charged you to pardon you is pretty crazy. Almost as crazy as his supporters, who claim that Bradley’s spirit has not been broken, even in the midst of presenting his meandering appeal to the Commander in Chief he had betrayed. They also think by telling Obama that Bradley has inspired a wave of followers he will be moved to pardon Bradley, showing those followers that they can get away with releasing classified information. Bradley is also going for a multiple personality angle, in that he can’t decide which woman he is, “Brianna” or “Chelsea”. I’m wondering if the LGBT community will continue to support Bradley, now that he’s using being transgender as indication of a mental illness.

Regardless of a person’s mental state, the effects of their actions are permanent. George Moscone and Harvey Milk are just as dead as they would have been had Dan White been perfectly balanced. Noah, Luke, Paul, Mary, and John Yates will never have the opportunity to become parents, even if someday Andrea overcomes the depression of giving birth. The intelligence assets lost can never be recovered, even though Bradley will certainly have the opportunity to be someone’s girlfriend, although they may use a different term for the “relationship”.

I do not believe that justice can be escaped. We each will face our God eventually, and he will know the truth no matter what we say.







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