Guilty Again! By Reason of Insanity

The legal system has again failed and is directly responsible for the hung jury in Collin County, Texas. The Dallas Morning News front page article for Friday, 2-24-06 reads "Jurors deadlocked in Plano mother’s murder trial."

This whole story is so bizarre, that unlike the recent memoir "Pieces," this one couldn’t have been made up. Ironically, the most bizarre part of the story for me is the closing statement by the prosecutors. But first, I need to paint the setting.

A jury of 5 women and 7 men have had to endure a long painful trial. They have spent over 21 hours in 2 days deliberating, unable to reach consensus. The facts are not in dispute. In November 2004 Dena Schlosser cut off her 10 month old daughter’s arms at the shoulder. (related December 2004 blog) The jury has to decide unanimously whether she is guilty of murder or not guilty by reason of insanity. What I think is insane is the law that forces the jurors to make that choice.

There is no question that Ms. Schlosser had a severe mental illness with delusions, hallucination, and bizarre behavior that came on during the postpartum period. She had somewhat brief and inadequate psychiatric treatment. She was also a strongly religious person whose preacher doesn’t believe in mental illness and attributed her sick behavior to demons. Her husband was similarly clueless.

The defense put on several witnesses, including psychiatrists, who said she was insane and didn’t know right from wrong. In what appeared to be a concession, the prosecutor did not put any mental health witnesses on the stand to dispute the insanity defense. Maybe they couldn’t find a single mental health professional who agreed with them.

In their closing statements, prosecutors told the jurors that the psychiatrists who testified for Ms. Schlosser made their decision before they examined her. Quoting The Dallas Morning News article,

"They said the crime was so horrible that the psychiatrists, like many people, already believed that only someone not in her right mind would sever a baby’s arms."

Excuse me if I’m missing something. Can anybody think of a scenario where a woman IN her right mind would commit such an act? And the ulterior motive was ….?

The problem is the legal options. Ms. Schlosser IS GUILTY … BY REASON OF INSANITY (according to the law, this option does not exist). She needs to be in a psychiatric treatment facility. Her treatment needs to be monitored by the court, and if she’s ever deemed able to be released, her ongoing treatment would need to be continued for life – with parole revoked if she doesn’t comply. One option would be controlling her psychosis with mandatory injections, which are long acting and given monthly.

To add misery to insult, the jury is being put on a guilt trip. The judge told them if they didn’t make a unanimous decision, another trial and jury might not either. It would cost the tax payers a lot of money to retry her case.

They have already told the judge there is no chance they will all agree. That means to get a verdict, at least one of them will have to vote against their conscience and then have to live with that too. Wasn’t going through this trial traumatic enough? At least the law was recently changed to allow the prosecutor and defense attorney to negotiate an agreement, presumably "not guilty by reason of insanity." Be honest, is this nuts or what?

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