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Chapter 18

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Chapter 18 • Fitness to stand trial: accused individuals must have a rational understanding of the charges against them and the proceedings of the trial, understand the consequences of the proceedings and be able to communicate with their lawyers; definition from Criminal Code; aims to protect fairness of legal process and presser accused individual’s autonomy; stems from common law requirement that defendant conduct proper defence o Problems: 40% of those examined in Vancouver study showed impairments on fitness to stand trial interview (without disorder); IQ scores one of strongest predictors related to legal abilities; include assessment of mental disorder (as defined by law) and impairments in legal abilities; mental disorder not sufficient on its own o Trial: most common type of pre-trial evaluation; trials postponed if there is reason to believe individual will become fit in foreseeable future and can be forced to receive treatment o Diagnosis: defendants with long histories of psychiatric problems are more likely to be referred; those with psychiatric disorders show most impairment; Canadian forensic psychologists leaders in developing tests of cognitive abilities; disorganization symptoms and hallucinations more troublesome than delusions  Fitness Interview Test: Ronald Roesch; 30-45 minute clinical interview to develop fitness to stand trial; • Insanity: legal term; people can’t be held responsible for their acts if they were so mentally incapacitated they could not conform to societal rules; don’t need to be chronically insane, only insane at the time • Insanity defence: used in case of John Hinckley (shot Reagan and his press secretary); renamed not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder defence in Canada after 1992; case of Andre Dallaire who attempted to assassinate Chretien (paranoid schizophrenia  institutionalization, outpatient care in community); fewer than 1 in 100 defendants file insanity plea in US and only 26% of these result in acquittal; usually men between 20-29 who are unmarried, unemployed, have a history of violent offences, has been diagnosed with disorder • Battered women syndrome: Loreena and John Bobbitt; temporary insanity for women who injure or kill abusive partners; women’s sense of helplessness and reasonable apprehension that her life is in danger following pattern of chronic assault; Jane Hurshman killed abusive common law partner and was acquitted • Consequences: 85% of those acquitted are sent to mental hospitals; all but 1% put under some type of supervision and care; normally detained longer in hospitals than they would have been in prison; indefinite detainment has been ruled unconstitutional; little consistency across provinces with respect to amount of time someone is detained • M’Naghten rule: person must have mens rea (guilty mind) or intention to commit guilty act in order to be held responsible for the act; mental defect precludes someone from knowing nature and quality of act or not knowing act is wrong o Problems: have to determine what is meant by “disease of the mind”; law unclear and inconsistent and only psychoses frequently recognized; difficult to make retrospective judgment as to whether person did not know right from wrong at time crime was committed; disorders do not prevent someone from knowing right from wrong (example of Dahmer) • Criticisms of insanity defence: mental health professionals often disagree about the nature and causes of psychological disorders and evaluation of defendants’ states of mind at time crimes were committed; lawyers on each side find professionals who agree with their view; variability in actual expertise of psychiatrists; frequently present data and test results not connected to context of occurrence; don’t when someone should be held responsible for their behaviours • Freedom of choice: can we force people into mental institutions and to undergo treatment; historically, state’s legal authority to detain individuals within Canadian insane asylums was absolute • Violet Bowyer: 1930 insanity hearing in Ontario; convicted of vagrancy and committed to term of two years less a day; maximum sentence; after jail time, she was referred to two medical practitioners who determined her insane and ordered her to Ontario Hospital for the Insane in Cobourg; judge determined burden proof was on person demonstrating sanity; misuse of civil commitment proceedings • Civil commitment: state viewed as “parent” of those who can’t care for themselves; provincial guidelines for when someone can be hospitalized against their will; personal freedom suspended in securing involuntary detention in
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