Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985

Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985

Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985

Homicidal Insanity, 1800-1985

Synopsis

Homicidal insanity has remained a vexation to both the psychiatric and legal professions despite the panorama of scientific and social change during the past 200 years. The predominant opinion today among psychiatrists is that no correlation exists between dangerousness and specific mental disorders.But for generation after generation, psychiatrists have reported cases of insane homicide that were clinically similar. Although psychiatric theory changed and psychiatric nosology was inconsistent, the mental phenomena psychiatrists identified in such cases remained the same. The central thesis of "Homicidal Insanity" is that as psychiatric theory changed, psychiatrists regarded these phenomena variously as symptoms of mental disease or the disease in itself. It is possible to trace these phenomena throughout the history of Anglo-American psychiatric theory and practice. A secondary thesis of the book is that psychiatrists have used these phenomena as predictors and markers in the practical matters of preventing insane homicide and of testifying in the courts to defend the irresponsible and expose the culpable. For 200 years, scientific and philosophical disagreement raised controversy and brought the issues to public attention. Still, to this day no rational method exists to discriminate the dangerous from the harmless in matters of involuntary commitment, nor insanity from crime in the courts.

a"

Excerpt

The last week of 1987 produced three mass murders. Russelville, Arkansas.R. Gene Simmons, Sr., killed sixteen people. “I've gotten everybody who wanted to hurt me,” a witness heard him say. Shortly before he surrendered, he told a hostage, “I've come to do what I wanted to do. It's all over now.” Algona, Iowa. “Seven family members were found shot to death … in what may have been a murder-suicide.… Police said Robert Dreesman, 40, shot his parents, his sister, and her three children with his shotgun before taking his own life.” Nashua, New Hampshire. “A man with a history of drug charges went on a shooting rampage in two communities, killing three men and critically wounding two before police shot him dead, authorities said yesterday.… All told, fifty-two relatives of killers were slain in eight mass murders in 1987, which sociologists say is the highest number of family massacres in recent memory.”

In the three year-end mass murders we will have the opportunity to evaluate only one of the perpetrators. Psychological autopsies may give us some insight into the minds of two of the murderers. However, those will not be as complete as the full psychiatric evaluation which Mr. Simmons will undergo. Undoubtedly he will enter an insanity plea. There will be a “battle of the experts.” It would be unusual if a number of psychiatric experts did not ex-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.