Why Lemak Has Long Odds with Rare Insanity Defense

By Gutowski, Christy | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), November 13, 2001 | Go to article overview

Why Lemak Has Long Odds with Rare Insanity Defense


Gutowski, Christy, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Byline: Christy Gutowski Daily Herald Legal Affairs Writer

If statistics mean anything, the odds are against Marilyn Lemak.

Her defense for killing three children is that she was insane at the time and could not comprehend her own actions.

Her trial begins today with jury selection, which is expected to last until Thanksgiving. And a verdict may not be reached until next year.

That jury will be asked to wade through testimony from at least six psychiatrists and mental-health experts who will argue whether the Naperville mother was so impaired that she did not know right from wrong.

There's little doubt something was wrong. Lemak had struggled with depression and anxiety for years. She was taking anti- depressant medication. Her marriage was ending. Her physical appearance had changed drastically, her weight in constant fluctuation.

But was she insane on March 4, 1999, when she drugged and suffocated her three children, one by one, then tried to commit suicide? Prosecutors argue the crimes were premeditated and fit a manipulative pattern.

Combating that argument through an insanity defense is tough. Laws have tightened the definition of when mental illness can excuse a crime.

Moreover, experts say, jurors are reluctant to exonerate specific acts based on something as abstract as psychology.

And, perhaps not insignificantly, such defenses are rare.

One study found the insanity defense is pursued about eight to 11 times for every 1 million crimes.

"It is used in one-quarter of 1 percent of all felonies, and is successful in one-third of those one-quarter, which gets us down to one-twelfth. And in 90 percent of those, the prosecutor and defense agree," noted Michael Perlin, a professor at New York Law School who wrote a book on the subject in 1995.

One reason for the hesitancy is the nature of jurors.

"We don't want to say to anybody that they are 'not guilty' of something we know they did," Perlin said. "We believe it's a moral failing on their part. So, it's a hard defense to sell."

Jurors also fear insane people will be set free. In reality, however, studies show defendants acquitted in insanity cases and sent to mental hospitals end up spending more time confined than if they had been convicted and sent to prison.

Some argue John Hinckley, found not guilty by reason of insanity for his attempt to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981, might be out of prison today had he been convicted. Instead, Hinckley remains confined to St. Elizabeth's Hospital in Washington, D.C.

Some legal experts attribute public outrage over the Hinckley verdict as the reason many states, including Illinois, have narrowed the definition for when insanity excuses a crime.

Today, Lemak's defense team has to show not only that she was mentally ill at the time of the killings, the law also requires proof that because of her mental disease, she lacked the ability to understand that her conduct was criminal. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Why Lemak Has Long Odds with Rare Insanity Defense
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.