1/25/17 A link was added yesterday to an article about the brain damaged defendant. DJP asserts that the type of brain dysfunction that is central to this paper that is linked to should not be distinguished from severe mental illness where there may be an absence of detectable structural damage to the brain. In a previous blog post, we made reference to pathophysiology. We might think of this construct in relation to FLD vs severe mental illness as a hardware/software distinction – and given the complexity of a disease such as schizophrenia, for example, there may be structural anomalies (hardware) and chemical imbalances (software) underlying neurocognitive dysfunction.
There is an interesting passage in this paper (pg 7 of 79) where the writer inserts an observation made by Plato, the philosopher, in 360 B.C , ‘that no man is voluntarily bad; but the bad becomes bad by reason of an ill disposition of the body…[which] happens(s) to him against his will. This insight of the great philosopher comes to life vividly in the desperate pleadings of parents in high profile criminal cases involving young victims of psychotic brain disease…”my son is sick…this disease picked him, he did not pick this disease”. The illustrious Mark Twain also made similar observations in the wry, brilliant way in which he was gifted to speak.
DJP noted in a previous blog that although we look to the future of neuroscience to lead us out of this morass of injustice for people with severe mental illness, we need not look further than the past, to the M’Naghten case of the 1800’s to find that the physicians had insight into the exculpatory properties of severe mental illness. The writer of this blog was taken aback to find that a philosopher of ancient times had a grasp of what is beyond the intuitive discernment of the most educated minds in our present, and that our laws and our criminal justice system are deformed because of this lack of insight and intellectual curiosity.
The citing of Plato’s observation on the biology of bad human behavior does not lead us to conclude that no person should be found guilty and punished. Not all criminogenic defects of the brain deprive a person of critical mental functionalities that are required to conform behaviors to the law. Schizophrenia is one disease that without question can deprive a human being of those very critical functionalities to a devastating degree, but because practitioners in the criminal justice system fail to comprehend severe mental illness, misinterpreting what appear to the lay person to be incriminating utterances and behaviors (as evidence of mens rea), the person who should be found inculpable is unjustly convicted and punished.
-A commentary on competency restoration. We feel strongly on this topic and want to concisely and pointedly state our position.