Saturday, July 01, 2006

US Supreme Court Justice


The conservative dominated US Supreme Court is working hard to redefine the meaning of justice, and mental competence. In a recent verdict (Clark vs Arizona, June 30, 2006) a 17 year old paranoid schizophrenic who believed that aliens from outerspace were after him to kill him, killed a police officer, believing that the officer was one such alien. Both defence and prosecution agreed on his psychosis and the nature of his delusions, yet he was denied the right to enter information about his mental illness in order to support his insanity defence. After much forth and back (ie lower courts) the US Supreme Court ruled that psychiatrists' evidence was indeed inadmissible because it could not be relied upon to make accurate and noncontroversial diagnoses of mental illness or evaluations of capacity. The Supreme Court practically denied psychiatrists' capacity to provide reliable judgments on the question of whether a defendant had mens rea at the time of the crime.

This is quite remarkable obviously, as it suggests that the medically untrained Supreme Court judges made judgments on a profession that isn't their own, in this case psychiatry. While it may or may not be true that psychiatrists' judgments cannot be relied upon, surely the members of the US Supreme Court are not qualified themselves to decide this issue one way or another.

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