Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence

By Lawrie Reznek | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

The diagnosis of evil

MAD OR BAD?

From 1978 to 1991 Jeffrey Dahmer killed seventeen young men, mostly homosexuals, by luring them to his apartment with the promise of money for posing in nude photographs. There Dahmer plied them with drinks spiked with the sedating drug Halcion. Once asleep, he strangled them, cut them open, and had sex with the exposed body parts. He was only able to have an erection if his partner was unconscious. He kept some of the dead victims in his apartment for days, repeatedly sexually assaulting them. He boiled their skulls in hydrochloric acid, painting them for a shrine which he hoped would give him 'special powers'. The skulls aroused him, and he frequently masturbated in front of them. He ate parts of his victims after tenderizing them, responding with an erection. He explained his cannibalism by saying that he wanted his victims to come alive in him. He tried to turn some of his victims into walking zombies-sex slaves-by performing frontal lobotomies. He drilled holes in their heads and injected muriatic acid. Some died instantly but others managed to walk around for days after the operation.

Was he mad or bad? The matter was put to the courts. Dahmer was charged with fifteen murders and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI). The ensuing trial became a battleground of experts. Psychiatrists for the defence testified that Dahmer suffered from necrophilia to such a degree that he was unable to control his behaviour. They recounted that his fascination for death began early in life when he searched for animals along the side of the road, experimenting with their dead bodies and bleaching their bones with acid. He dissected

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Evil or Ill? Justifying the Insanity Defence
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - A History of Criminal Responsibility 15
  • 2 - A Taxonomy of Defences 38
  • 3 - Ignorance as an Excuse 61
  • 4 - Compulsion as an Excuse 75
  • 5 - Automatism as an Excuse 93
  • 6 - The Justification of Excuses 115
  • 7 - Causality as an Excuse 135
  • 8 - The Reductionist Theory 152
  • 9 - Irrationality as an Excuse 173
  • 10 - The Concept of Disease 200
  • 11 - Character Change as an Excuse 223
  • 12 - The Clash of Paradigms 246
  • 13 - The Insanity Defence in Practice 266
  • Conclusion 295
  • Bibliography 311
  • Index 322
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