Academic journal article Journal of Psychiatry & Law

Civil and Criminal Mental Health Law. A Companion Reference for Forensic Experts and Attorneys. the Essential Costs

Academic journal article Journal of Psychiatry & Law

Civil and Criminal Mental Health Law. A Companion Reference for Forensic Experts and Attorneys. the Essential Costs

Article excerpt

Civil and Criminal Mental Health Law. A Companion Reference for Forensic Experts and Attorneys. The Essential Costs, by Fritz Thenor (Balboa Island, CA: ACFP Press, 2004), 313 pp., $75.00.

This useful digest of what this volume's book jacket asserts is ". . . 20 legal cases that every forensic mental health expert should know . . ." (book jacket) has a place as a potential companion to any number of textbooks, monographs, and narrative treatises of forensic psychiatry/psychology (see, for example, Rosner, 2003; Simon and Gold, 2004; Slovenko, 2002; Arrigo and Shipley, 2005. These encyclopedic textbooks/references will be reviewed as a group in a future issue of this Journal).

Although not clear from the book itself, this volume does not appear to this reviewer to be used as a stand-alone textbook or monograph. Rather, it appears to be a collection of examples and discussions of published legal cases, some dating back many years, which illustrate and have significant legal authority in the 32 categories, or subject areas, of Civil and Criminal Mental Health Law identified and developed by the author.*

Following an initial history and overview of each of the 32 forensic subject areas covered by this book at the beginning of each of its 32 chapters, the format of each case digested in each chapter includes

* A citation and brief discussion of the forensic issue in the case

* A summary of The Case itself

* A brief review of the precedents applicable to the issue raised in the case

* A discussion of the Rationale, or reasoning used by the judicial decision-maker (the Court) in the case

* A presentation of the Ruling by the Court in the case

* A Continent, or discussion of the various aspects of the case in terms of its impact on the forensic arena to which the case applies.

The author thus provides a concise review of the salient bullet points for the 120 cases he digests in this book, also described on the jacket as ". . . A Companion for Forensic Experts and Attorney."

By way of illustration of the author's format and writing, the following excerpt of the well-known 1843 M'Naghten's Case - a test for legal insanity currently used in over 20 jurisdictions in the United States and the United Kingdom (Greenfield, 2009) and well known to many readers of this Journal - presents and discusses that landmark case:

M'Naghten's Case

8 Eng. Rep 718 (1843)

What is the test to establish a defense on the ground of insanity?

The Case

Daniel M'Naghten who had entertained paranoid delusions concerning the British Prime Minister Robert Peel, mistakenly shot Peek's secretary Edward Drummond instead of him on January 20, 1843. Drummond languished with his wound until his death on April 25, 1843. At the trial M'Naghten pleaded not guilty. Nine medical witnesses testified that M'Naghten was insane. Chief Justice Tindal then charged the jury with the following instruction: "The question to be determined is, whether at the time of the act in question was committed, the prisoner had or had not the use of his understanding, so as to know that he was doing a wrong or wicked act. If jurors should be of the opinion that the prisoner was not sensible, at the time he committed the act, that he was violating the laws both of God and man, then he would be entitled to a verdict in his favour: But if, on the contrary, they were of the opinion that when he committed the act he was in a sound state of mind, then their verdict must be against him." The jury entered a verdict of not guilty, on the ground of insanity. This determination raised bitter public feelings throughout England. The House of Lords sent five questions to the Supreme Court of Judicature, and the judges' answers to two of these five questions embodied the M'Naghten test.


1. To establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the commission of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or as not to know what he was doing was wrong. …

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