Justin Caldwell Somers, in jail for not paying a jaywalking fine, brutally murdered his sleeping cellmate by stomping him to death on the cement floor, but was found not criminally responsible because he had been acting under the influence of delusions and hallucinations. Now he is suing various personnel of the remand center for not preventing the incident, in part by not heeding the recommendation of a nurse and psychiatrist that he be housed alone: since the murder Somers “has experienced severe mental anguish and mental distress as a result of his role in causing the death of Mr. Stewart, as well as a result of the conditions of his incarceration.” [Edmonton Journal]
From Cato Institute chairman Robert Levy, who was co-counsel in the landmark D.C. v. Heller case. [National Law Journal] More: Trevor Burrus, The Blaze. And the New York Times takes up the topic of guns and suicide, but with some pretty big omissions [Tom Maguire, Ira Stoll/SmarterTimes]
Further: “Senate Judiciary Committee Hears from Cato on Gun Policy” [Ilya Shapiro, citing contributions by David Kopel, Randy Barnett, etc.] And while Bing’s real-time reaction tracker isn’t a scientific voter survey (though the sample size is large, and there’s a partisan breakdown) it seems I was not alone in being put off by President Obama’s demagogic “they deserve a vote” State of the Union wind-up on gun control. [Mediaite]
At Cook County Judge Cynthia Brim’s trial this week, “she was found not guilty of misdemeanor battery because she was ‘legally insane’ at the time.” Cook County voters re-elected Brim in November despite reports of her troubles [South Bend Tribune/Chicago Tribune, earlier]
Not only can she, but it seems she does. [Austin American-Statesman]
Checking out a published report, Erik Magraken contacted former New Mexico state senator Duncan Scott and found that it was true, the lawmaker had indeed introduced a legislative amendment in 1995 providing that:
When a psychologist or psychiatrist testifies during a defendant’s competency hearing, the psychologist or psychiatrist shall wear a cone-shaped hat that is not less than two feet tall. The surface of the hat shall be imprinted with stars and lightning bolts. Additionally, a psychologist or psychiatrist shall be required to don a white beard that is not less than 18 inches in length, and shall punctuate crucial elements of his testimony by stabbing the air with a wand. Whenever a psychologist or psychiatrist provides expert testimony regarding a defendant’s competency, the bailiff shall contemporaneously dim the courtroom lights and administer two strikes to a Chinese gong…
The amendment — intended satirically, one should hasten to add –”passed with a unanimous Senate vote” but was removed from its bill before consideration by the state house and never became law. (& Coyote, Above the Law)
My new podcast at Cato discusses the American Psychiatric Association’s ongoing project of redefining and often loosening the criteria for diagnosing mental illness, and some of its legal implications in fields like disability law (earlier).
As part of its revision of its influential Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the American Psychiatric Association is proposing to lower diagnostic thresholds for some conditions and recognize other entirely new (and sometimes controversial) disorders. That will have implications for the coverage of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws, as I explain in a new post at Cato at Liberty. (& Alkon, Alex Adrianson/InsiderOnline)
“Macomb County Probate Court officials can’t explain how a man falsely claiming to be a medical doctor was allowed to decide whether people were mentally competent to handle their own estates and whether jail inmates needed mental health care.” [Detroit News]
Horrifying Seattle Times investigation:
For a quarter century [Stuart] Greenberg testified as an expert in forensic psychology, an inscrutable field with immense power. Purporting to offer insight into the human condition, he evaluated more than 2,000 children, teenagers and adults. His word could determine which parent received custody of a child, or whether a jury believed a claim of sexual assault, or what damages might be awarded for emotional distress. …
His peers elected him their national president. But his formidable career was built upon a foundation of hypocrisy and lies.
“The Washington state Supreme Court has ruled that a criminally insane man who murdered his mother should not profit from his crime by pocketing a share of the proceeds from a lawsuit related to her death.” [Heller, OnPoint News; Joshua Hoge, Pamela Kissinger]