Ninth Circuit: “Judge Wrongly Barred Asperger’s Evidence in Eco-Terrorism Trial”

by Walter Olson on September 14, 2009

“A federal appeals court has overturned the arson convictions of a Caltech grad student accused of torching and vandalizing 125 SUVs, ruling the trial judge wrongly barred evidence of the defendant’s Asperger’s syndrome.” [ABA Journal, L.A. Times] While we’re at it, also from the ABA Journal: “Law Prof Charged with Tax Evasion, Claims Severe ADD, Prosecutors Say“.

{ 2 comments }

1 nevins 09.14.09 at 10:04 am

“Asperger’s syndrome is a form of autism that impairs a person’s ability to interact normally with others and inhibits understanding of facial gestures, body language and other nonverbal signals.”

And how really does this mitigate his interaction with inanimate objects such as cars? And if, as he argues, his capacity for judgment is so poor then perhaps he should be committed to a state facility for a long long time for his own wellbeing.

2 anonymous aspie coward 09.14.09 at 1:45 pm

1. It was dumb that disclosure of his disability was disbarred if for no other reason than to have prevented what has since transpired.

2. His disability -alone- shouldn’t have gotten him off the hook. If anything, disclosing it would have been icing on the cake for the prosecution because autistics, more than “normal” people, have a finely tuned sense of right and wrong. Our sense of right and wrong is practically diagnostic criteria. That the student felt the ends justified the means is another story entirely and has nothing to do with the state of his mental health -as it relates to autism (autism is not mental illness).

What interests me from an autism related standpoint is whether he did break the windows and set the vehicles on fire. He claims he did not. I don’t know the truth of it and have no opinion either way but I do know that autistics are commonly accused of crimes they had nothing to do with or minimally, not to the same degree. The comparatively superior social skills of their co-conspirators have successfully led to pinning the crimes on autistics who lack the ability to defend themselves or disengage themselves from the situation as it transpires.

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