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Old 30 September 2014, 04:25 PM
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Default Luka Magnotta case: The challenges of a 'not criminally responsible' defence

Article here
I'm not quoting the opening paragraph, becaue it's not what i want to discuss:

Quote:
Under Section 16 (1) of Canada's Criminal Code, a person cannot be found criminally responsible "for an act committed or an omission made while suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing it was wrong."
So, you can't be held criminally responsible if you didn't understand what you were doing was wrong.
BUT!
Could the prosecution go on the offensive to show that you were aware of your condition could turn violent and that you took steps to take yourself off a treatment program anyways?

For example, here in Canada a few years ago there was a case of a man beheading someone on a greyhound bus. The man responsible had stopped taking his medication for Schizophrenia, the same condition that Magnotta's attorney says his client suffers.

Since that case was very public, could it be argued that if you suffer from Schizophrenia and are treated by drugs, and you knowingly stop your treatment, making the decision when you're considered stable and treated, then you are knowingly endangering others?
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Old 30 September 2014, 05:19 PM
Ellestar Ellestar is offline
 
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I think that there's a lot of misunderstanding of the nature of schizophrenia. People who suffer from this mental disorder rarely turn violent towards others. In fact, they're much more likely to be the victim of crimes than the perpetrator.

A diagnosis of schizophrenia does not reliably predict future violence, so I would say, no, in answer to your question of whether or not a person who has received diagnosis and refusing treatment would be knowingly endangering others.

I also really dislike the idea of compelling people into continuing treatments they don't want.
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Old 30 September 2014, 05:25 PM
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IANAL, but that could certainly be argued. IMO, if successful, it would lead to conviction on a count of negligent homicide, similar to what one would get for driving while impaired by alcohol or medication or illegal drugs. The sticking point would be how likely it would be for someone to commit murder after stopping a course of psychiatric treatment. It seems that getting into an accident while impaired is much more likely an outcome that committing murder while no longer medicated is. If that's the case, then it would be harder to argue that committing murder is so foreseeable an outcome that it would be criminally negligent for someone to stop treatment.

Another big part of the argument would be the past behavior of the one who was in treatment. If that person had a history of violent or dangerous behavior when off medication, then it would be much more likely that stopping treatment would result in a violent outcome such as murder so a conviction on negligent homicide would be possible. It would be like if someone kept a dog that a history of unprovoked attacks on other dogs and that dog was allowed to be loose and attacked and killed a human. The past history of violent behavior of the dog could a cause of negligence, especially because the owner did not take step to eliminate the possibility that the dog could attack again.
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Old 30 September 2014, 07:33 PM
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Lots of schizophrenics take the meds, feel better, decide they're cured, and stop the meds. Once they're past a certain point they don't see how they're not doing the same off the meds.

While most schizophrenics aren't violent, a few do have violent hallucinations and delusions; I don't think those acts should be treated criminally. They might have to stay on a locked mental ward, but jail would be pointless as they don't have the capacity to understand what they're being punished for.

Sister "sort of speaking from experience" Ray
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Old 30 September 2014, 08:15 PM
Elkhound Elkhound is offline
 
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How about this. Instead of "not criminally responsible", make it "guilty but mentally ill." Such a finding would mean that the defendant would begin serving his/her sentence in a secure psychiatric facility. If treatment comes to a place where s/he does not need to be in such a place, s/he can be sent to a halfway house, community treatment program, or even sent home. . . BUT the person would be considered on parole and a condition of that control would be continuing to participate and cooperate in treatment, including taking one's meds.
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Old 30 September 2014, 09:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Elkhound View Post
How about this. Instead of "not criminally responsible", make it "guilty but mentally ill." Such a finding would mean that the defendant would begin serving his/her sentence in a secure psychiatric facility.
That can already be the case in many areas. Not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect doesnít always mean you go home. Itís an assertive defense which means that you could be pleading that you are mentally diseased and cannot function in society properly. From Wiki

Quote:
Those found to have been not guilty by reason of insanity are generally then required to undergo psychiatric treatment, except in the case of temporary insanity. Defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity are generally placed in a mental institution. This is not the case in England and Wales, where under the Criminal Procedure (Insanity and Unfitness to Plead) Act of 1991 (amended by the Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act, 2004 to remove the option of a guardianship order), the court can mandate a hospital order, a restriction order (where release from hospital requires the permission of the Home Secretary), a "supervision and treatment" order, or an absolute discharge. Unlike defendants who are found guilty of a crime, they are not institutionalized for a fixed period, but rather held in the institution until they are determined not to be a threat. Authorities making this decision tend to be cautious, and as a result, defendants can often be institutionalized for longer than they would have been incarcerated in prison.
Itís very rarely used and even when itís pleaded, it isnít as if itís successful all the time.
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Old 01 October 2014, 02:22 PM
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The defence in this case is not "guilty/not guilty". As the article states, Magnotta has admitted to the facts, stating he did kill Lin. The issue is whether he can be criminally responsible.

And I understand that not all schizophrenics are violent, but I specifically referred the other case that was a big news item here in Canada to highlight the fact that if you suffer from X illness, and you're being treated but decide to stop your treatment, despite being aware that there's a possibility of bad things happening, could you be considered responsible, if you do go off the deep end.

I understand how a lot of treatment, for varying mental disorders leave the patients feeling uneasy, or work so well that the patient thinks he's cured. This leads the patient to stop medicating, and then starts suffering their symptoms again. (my sister was on anti depressants for a while and would always be trying to stop taking them, even though she'd end up unable to do even the most basic things if she did).

I don't think it's a question of forcing someone to be medicated, rather whether or not their decision to stop medicating can be taken as a voluntary decision to endanger others.
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Old 11 October 2014, 12:54 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alarm View Post
So, you can't be held criminally responsible if you didn't understand what you were doing was wrong.
BUT!
Could the prosecution go on the offensive to show that you were aware of your condition could turn violent and that you took steps to take yourself off a treatment program anyways?
Remebering my old Criminal Law class this formulation "suffering from a mental disorder that rendered the person incapable of appreciating the nature and quality of the act or omission or of knowing it was wrong." is a pretty standard one in American law as well.

It seems a reformulation of the M'Naghten Test of 1843 (the Test is result of the Queen getting perturbed at a successful insanity defense based on then novel psychology and insisting that the courts reaffirm a much stricter 'no knowledge of good and evil' test that goes back to the 16th century). The test read something like "at the time of the committing 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, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong."

This covers insanity so severe that you say cut off someone's head believing that you are actually chopping a tree, or not realizing that chopping off someone's head will cause them injury.

Newer versions of the M'Naghten test have tried to focus on the insane criminal being subject to an "irresistible impulse" rather then not knowing something is wrong, because it's pretty clear that one can know a crime is wrong but be under the insane delusion that it must be done. The Model Penal Code made some further efforts to reform it but the 16th century concepts of mental health still largely govern the use of insanity pleas.

This is to say, don't plead insanity, it doesn't work, and it's hard to find an expert witness that will testify to this level of insanity, unless the criminal is utterly inconceivably delusional insane. Remember also that the criminal defendant is presumed to be sane, and will have to prove otherwise to an often skeptical jury, using ideas about mental health that don't really correlate to modern (or even 19th century science).

All that said, if one knows one suffers from violent delusions and goes off one's medicine, then commits a crime/causes an accident I know it allows for civil penalties - there's a great case where a woman had a psychotic break while driving and decided she was driving a flying Batmobile with predictable results - I suspect it would have less effect on a criminal charge for the act committed while insane, because insanity isn't simply a matter of incompetence under these rules, it's the utter lack of the Mens Rea/Intent element of the crime. I don't know Canadian law at all either, but I suspect there may be a separate crime involved in stopping taking the medicine. Either way, remember it's not like the violently insane criminal will 'walk' in many of these situations, but is more likely to be sentenced to indefinite time in a hospital.

-Winged Monkey
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Old 11 October 2014, 01:08 AM
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Actually, the insanity defense is often used successfully, and is often agreed with by prosecutors and even victims. You just don't hear about those cases, because they are nonviolent, or minimally violent, crimes. It is in the high profile, very violent cases where it doesn't work. When the damage isn't too bad, people are able to see that a person isn't truly responsible. When the damage is horrific, often people feel someone *must be* responsible.
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Old 12 October 2014, 08:20 PM
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Erwins, the statistics I saw (admittedly about 10 years old) suggest about a 20% success rate. They do of course note that it is often used in minor cases such as shop lifting. I'm not sure if that stat includes cases that have been plead out, or not.

-Winged Monkey
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Old 12 October 2014, 08:33 PM
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I suspect that those stats don't include cases being pled out, but rather reflects success rates at trial. The stats I saw are at least that old--something I read in law school--and I don't know that I can dig it up again, but that's my sense.
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