Recently there has been a spike in the number of publicized shootings in the United States. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was almost fatally shot in the head, and last week there were 8 pronounced dead in the Seal Beach shootings. Both of these shooters, Andrew Loughner and Scott Dekraai, now seek the insanity defense for schizophetrenia and anti-psychotic use for bipolar disorder. Robert David Jaffee delves into these pleas for lessened sentences in his article “Psychotics Don’t Premeditate Crimes.” Jaffee, a diagnosed schizophrenic, argues that premeditated crimes do not arise from individuals with psychosis and that a psychotic’s actions are unplanned and generally impulsive and reactive. They are anything but malicious.
Jaffee argues his stance by pointing out the definitions of psychosis which by the DSM IV is “a loss of contact with reality, usually including false beliefs about what is taking place or who one is (delusions) and seeing or hearing things that aren’t there (hallucinations).” He notes then that those shooters, (Dekraii, Loughner and Breivik (Sweden shootings)), all premeditated their actions prior to their respective crimes. These individuals were also extremely tranquil and placid following the crime, which is uncharacteristic of a textbook psychotic. Jaffee culminates his piece by citing the character of Iago from Othello, who is the ideal villain and representation of evil, not mentally ill. Jaffee then goes onto describe briefly his own experiences as a schizophrenic and how Loughner is a complete misrepresentation of individuals with schizophrenia.
I believe that Jaffee is correct in his analysis of these shooters, in that psychosis precludes premeditation. A psychotic involved in such a violent crime would most likely correlate a reactive impulse and result in extreme anguish and emotional break. Though these individuals are ill, I believe that their actions are a result of an evil predisposition. Given what I know from the cases, it seems that all of these incidents were well thought out, and the individuals feel no remorse for their actions and do not deserve to plead not guilty through the insanity defense. In addition, I believe that these criminals also taint the general populations perceptions of those with mental illness, and create a susceptibility in the future to perhaps strip mentally ill individuals from their civil rights.