Mentally Insane but Guilty

5200 Words21 Pages
Mentally Insane but Guilty

The New York State Senate today passed legislation (S.1822), sponsored by Senator Frank Padavan (R-C, Bellerose), that would allow juries to find defendants "guilty but mentally ill" in cases where they believe the defendant may have been mentally ill at the time of the crime, but should still be held responsible for his or her actions.

"The Andrea Yates case in Texas highlights the need for another option for jurors other than simply guilty or innocent. Often, juries are reluctant to find defendants 'not guilty by reason of mental illness,' because they are afraid those defendants will not be held responsible and will go free after only a brief stay in a psychiatric hospital," said Senator Padavan. "These men and women are found guilty and serve time in prison without receiving the psychiatric treatment they so desperately need."

A Texas jury last week found Andrea Yates guilty in the drowning deaths of her five children and recommended life in prison, rather than the death penalty. Jurors said they believed that Yates was mentally ill, but that she knew the difference between right and wrong.

"By creating a verdict of 'guilty but mentally ill,' a jury would be able to establish that a defendant's mental illness is great enough to require treatment, but not so great as to relieve him or her of guilt for a crime," said Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno. "This will keep dangerous criminals, like Albert Fentress, off the streets, while giving people with real mental defects the treatment they deserve."

Albert Fentress, who spent the last 20 years in a psychiatric institution after torturing, sexually assaulting, killing and cannibalizing a Poughkeepsie teenager, recently petitioned the court...

... middle of paper ...

...inal justice system. We need ATI and enhanced community mental health programs that can accommodate people with mental illness diverted from the criminal justice system. We need discharge planning for all jail and prison inmates with mental illness and programs that will assist people as they return to the community.

People with mental illness caught up in the criminal justice system are part of our communities. Our present system is failing to retrieve these many desperate lives and failing equally to spend available money judiciously. Decency and fiscal responsibility call for the changes outlined here. New York City and State could become leaders in addressing this growing national problem and assisting society's most vulnerable citizens. It is our hope that this report and these recommendations will persuade policymakers to follow this sensible and humane path

More about Mentally Insane but Guilty

Open Document