Multiples as Perpetrators | jcarlsmith | August 30, 2012


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Multiples as Perpetrators

by jcarlsmith Show/Hide
This playlist gathers together a set of seminal cases in which people with DID were tried for crimes committed while at least one alter was “out” and in control. It examines the different legal standards courts have used to evaluate such cases, and it offers a number of secondary materials to aid in applying critical scrutiny to the issues at hand. EDIT PLAYLIST INFORMATION DELETE PLAYLIST

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  1. 1 Show/Hide More State v. Grimsley
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Are the actions of a person with multiple personality disorder voluntary when she is dissociated from her primary personality and in the state of a consciousness of a secondary personality?
    This 1982 opinion set a legal standard for rulings pertaining to <span class="caps">DID</span> that many other courts have relied upon in ensuing cases. Thus, it is worth examining quite closely. Appellant was convicted of drunk driving. She appealed on the grounds that one of her alter personalities was in control at the time of the incident, and that her actions were therefore neither conscious nor voluntary. Note especially the court's framing of the incident in the last two paragraphs of the opinion. What philosophical and psychological assumptions about <span class="caps">DID</span> are at work? Do you agree with the court that if you allow the memory barriers involved with <span class="caps">DID</span> to aid in Grimsley's defense, you would have to do the same with all defendants whose memories are blocked? And is it really &#8220;immaterial whether [Grimsley] was in one state of consciousness or another,&#8221; as long as the alter in control was sane?
  2. 2 Show/Hide More Kirkland v. State
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Does DID on its own constitute a legitimate basis for an insanity defense?
    This 1983 case makes clear the influence of the standard set by the Grimsley court in 1982. The fact patterns were quite similar: appelant robbed a bank, then pled not guilty by reason of insanity on the basis of an uncontroverted diagnosis of &#8220;psychogenic fugue,&#8221; a disorder so closely akin to <span class="caps">DID</span> that the court treats them as identical. The court primarily relies on reasoning from Grimsley, and continues to develop analogies to somnambulism, memory loss, and unconscious action. As you read through the opinion, do you see any significant differences between this case and Grimsley, that might motivate a difference in legal response?
  3. 3 Show/Hide More United States v. Denny-Schaffer
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Faced with a defendant diagnosed with DID, did the trial judge err in rejecting the insanity defense for insufficiency of the evidence thereon?
    Unlike Kirkland, this 1993 opinion represents a direct repudiation of the standard set by the Grimsley court. Defendant was convicted of kidnapping a child from a New Mexico hospital. She pled not guilty by reason of insanity, claiming that her host personality was not in control at the time of the crime. Look closely at the court's reasoning in Part IV. Do the court's philosophical assumptions about <span class="caps">DID</span> differ from those at work in Grimsley and Kirkland? What new standard does this opinion suggest? Do you think that the court has done enough to justify it?
  4. 4 Show/Hide More Parker v. State
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Did the trial judge err in finding that a defendant with DID had failed to prove her insanity?
    Defendant &#8211; Pam Parker &#8211; pursued a check &#8220;kiting&#8221; scheme at two local banks. She pled insanity because of her &#8220;split personality,&#8221; and claimed that her other personality, Pam Lease, was the one responsible. The court affirmed the trial judge's ruling that there was insufficient evidence that defendant was insane. This case is of interest primarily because one of the leading scholars of <span class="caps">DID</span> and criminal law &#8211; Elyn Saks, who you will be reading later in the module &#8211; finds in it receptivity to the idea that it may not have been Pam Parker who committed the crime at all, but rather Pam Lease who did it (See Saks (1992), p. 386). With this view presumably comes the idea that different alters are separate people, and should be treated as such by the court (a position that Saks herself endorses in Section II of her article). Read through the case, and see if you see in it the same thing Saks does.
  5. 5 Show/Hide More State v. Rodrigues
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Has the state presented sufficient evidence of the defendant's sanity so as to require that the issue be presented to the jury?
    Appelant was indicted for three counts of sodomy and one of rape. A judge acquitted him on the basis of his <span class="caps">DID</span>, and the state appealed. Note the manner in which the differing views of the psychologists involved influence the outcome of the case. In the face of such disagreement, do you think that putting the issue to the jury is an appropriate response? More importantly, what standard does the opinion set for how to approach defendants with <span class="caps">DID</span>, and how does it differ from both the standards set in Grimsley and in Denny-Schaffer?
  6. 6 Show/Hide More State v. Greene
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Is dissociative identity disorder (DID) admissible as evidence of insanity or diminished capacity?
    Defendant was charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting his therapist, who had been treating him for <span class="caps">DID</span>. He pled not guilty by reason of insanity. The Supreme Court of Washington had already addressed a virtually identical issue in State v. Wheaton, 121 Wash.2d 347, 850 P.2d 507 (1993), but it agreed to hear this new case en banc anyways. This case is notable for the depth of its analysis of the issues involved. It also touches directly on broader questions about the way in which courts should relate to ignorance and uncertainty in the medical community. How does the court's ruling differ from the rulings in Grimsley and in U.S. v Denny-Schaffer? Do you agree that it is not possible to reliably connect the symptoms of <span class="caps">DID</span> with the sanity or insanity of the defendant? If so, do you think that the court's response to such impossibility is appropriate?
  7. 7 Show/Hide More State v. Darnell
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    Is there sufficient evidence in the record to raise an issue as to whether a defendant with DID was responsible for the murder of his father?
    Defendant was convicted for the murder of his father. He claimed that his father had consented to the killing, and that he was not guilty by reason of mental defect due to <span class="caps">DID</span>. This is case is notable primarily because it appeals explicitly to the possibility of the defendant faking his disorder &#8212; a possibility that was made salient by the controversy surrounding the diagnosis of <span class="caps">DID</span> around that time (see the Skepticism about <span class="caps">DID</span> section of this module).
  8. 8 Show/Hide More Secondary Materials
    Original Creator: jcarlsmith
    This playlist provides secondary materials to aid in the analysis of criminal cases involving defendants diagnosed with DID.
    This playlist provides secondary materials to aid in the analysis of criminal cases involving defendants diagnosed with <span class="caps">DID</span>.
    1. 8.1 Show/Hide More Multiple Personality Disorder and Criminal Responsibility
      This is a seminal article in the narrow field of DID and Criminal Law. In it, Elyn Saks presents three different interpretations of DID, and argues that according to each of them, multiples should be deemed non-responsible for their crimes. Read the intro (pp. 384-389), and then read sections II-IV (pp. 403-442).
      Which of the three interpretations of <span class="caps">DID</span> do you find most persuasive? Do you agree with Saks that each renders multiples non-responsible? Note the contrast between the way she appeals to an analogy with sleepwalking in Section <span class="caps">III</span>, and the way the Grimsely and Kirkland courts do so. In addition, pay particular attention to Section II, in which Saks argues that the best interpretation of <span class="caps">DID</span> views alters as separate people. By this point in the module, you should be familiar with some of the philosophical arguments she employs. Are you convinced? You'll notice from the cases reviewed in this playlist that not a single court has been willing to follow her in this conclusion. What explains this reluctance? Are certain philosophical positions simply untenable from a legal perspective, regardless of their persuasiveness in the abstract?
    2. 8.2 Show/Hide More Criminal Law and Multiple Personality Disorder: Vexing Problems of Personhood and Responsibility
      This article, written by the philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and the psychiatrist Stephen Behnke, aims primarily to challenge the argument that Saks pursued in Section II of her article (see above). It does so through appeal to certain experiential memories shared between alters. The beginning of the article provides a concise and informative summary both of Sak's position and of the different jurisprudential standards we have been exploring in this playlist. However, the essential material only really begins in Section IV (p. 282), so if you are strapped for time, start there and read through the end (p. 296).
      What do you think about the article's appeal to experiential memories shared between alters as a means of establishing their identity? Is it a problem that, as the authors admit, this kind of criterion will be extremely difficult to investigate? What's more, have Armstrong and Behnke really shown all they need to show? For example, they claim that in the Grimsley case, both Robin and Jennifer presumably have a memory of being told about the lump in the body's breast. Suppose we grant this conclusion. Does it follow that each alter has the same memory? After all, Armstrong and Behnke accept the possibility of co-consciousness between the alters. As we saw early in the playlist, in the description of the relationship between John Wood's alters, different alters may perceive events quite differently. Indeed, they seem to do in the manner that different people do &#8212; namely, in relationship to their own projects, concerns, relationships, etc. Does this pose a problem for Armstrong and Behnke? If so, what do you think would be their strongest response? Finally, suppose we grant to Armstrong and Behnke that alters are parts of the same person, and not separate people as Saks claims. Have they given sufficient due to Saks' arguments that even so understood, multiples would still be non-responsible? Armstrong and Behnke only address that question in the last paragraph of the essay, in which they embrace the Grimsley court's standard. Look closely at this paragraph. Is it persuasive?

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May 21, 2013

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