Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A Phsychiatrist Explores the Minds of Killers [NOOK Book]


A psychiatrist and an internationally recognized expert on violence, Dorothy Otnow Lewis has spent the last quarter century studying the minds of killers. Among the notorious murderers she has examined are Ted Bundy, Arthur Shawcross, and Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Now she shares her groundbreaking discoveries--and the chilling encounters that led to them.

From a juvenile court in Connecticut to the psychiatric wards of ...
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Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A Phsychiatrist Explores the Minds of Killers

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A psychiatrist and an internationally recognized expert on violence, Dorothy Otnow Lewis has spent the last quarter century studying the minds of killers. Among the notorious murderers she has examined are Ted Bundy, Arthur Shawcross, and Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Now she shares her groundbreaking discoveries--and the chilling encounters that led to them.

From a juvenile court in Connecticut to the psychiatric wards of New York City's Bellevue Hospital, from maximum security prisons to the corridors of death row, Lewis and her colleague, the eminent neurologist Jonathan Pincus, search to understand the origins of violence. GUILTY BY REASON OF INSANITY is an utterly absorbing odyssey that will forever change the way you think about crime, punishment, and the law itself.

From the Paperback edition.
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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A psychiatrist who meets the criminally insane tells all. Lewis, a professor at New York University and Yale, spends a good deal of time examining the most violent among us. Her specialty is violent children, but over the years she has also met with adults. Her subjects include Arthur Shawcross, who mutilated and ate his victims, and Ted Bundy, who kissed her goodbye shortly before his execution. Lewis has clearly seen and heard a great deal, and she's unsparing in the details of what makes a child violent. As expected, she finds that poverty and abuse are strong indicators of a tendency toward violence, and she writes movingly of one little girl who became a murderer after her family repeatedly ignored her cries for help. Not every child in those situations becomes a law-breaker, but years of abuse combined with inattentive medical care can lead to serious behavioral problems and terrible violence. Lewis early on makes the point that she has often identified more with a killer waiting to be executed than with society, which she believes makes her more sensitive to those who kill. This approach has limited appeal, however, and the book often veers between overly long sections on Lewis's background and and relationships with colleagues and her parents, and too little real analysis. The reader is left with excellent insights into Lewis's own modus operandi, but not much in the way of a true understanding of what makes an abused child turn into a Ted Bundy. Like Barbara Kirwin's The Mad, The Bad, and The Innocent, this book focuses too much on the analyst.
From the Publisher
--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
   The New York Times

--New York Post



--The Boston Globe

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307556554
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/4/2009
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 577,955
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Dorothy Otnow Lewis, M.D. grew up in New York City. She is a graduate of the Ethical Culture Schools, Radcliffe College, and Yale University School of Medicine. She is a psychiatrist at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, a professor at New York University School of Medicine, and a clinical professor at the Yale University Child Study Center. Her studies on violence have been cited in decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States. She is married to Dr. Melvin Lewis, a child psychiatrist and professor at Yale. The Lewises have two children.

From the Paperback edition.
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Read an Excerpt

The secret of working with violent people is knowing when to end an interview. Then again, in certain situations that is not an option. Occasionally, in spite of what seem to be adequate precautions, I find myself alone in the company of a very dangerous person. For example, several years ago I was locked n a room with Theodore Bundy. I had not planned it that way.

The very best setting for interviewing a potentially violent prisoner is one where guards can see everything and hear nothing. Indeed, when I began my interview with Mr. Bundy, that was the setup. He and I were locked inside a room adjoining the administrative area of the Florida State Penitentiary at Starke. One side of the room, the side with the door through which we entered, had a large pane of soundproof glass that looked like a picture window; the other three walls were solid concrete. A guard was posted just outside the glass where we could see him and he could see but not hear us. he stood in a common area, surrounded by two or three administrative offices and another glassed-in interview room. The doors to the office were open, and I could see people inside, working behind their desks. I was perfectly safe. Every so often someone came into the common area to fill a mug from a coffee urn, which was always full and hot.

The room, small to begin with, was further cramped by the presence of a rectangular wooden table that filled almost the entire space. Mr. Bundy and I sat across from each other, our chairs pushed up against opposite walls. He had taken the chair nearest the door and had managed to angle his seat so that he could keep an eye on me and also keep track of the guard's movements beyond theglass. I was obliged to take the one remaining chair jammed up against the far wall of the cubicle. I would have felt trapped were it not for my clear view of the guard and his clear view of me. There was nothing to worry about. I relaxed and focused my attention entirely on Mr. Bundy and the task at hand. Once an interview is under way, I am oblivious to my surroundings.

We had been talking since nine o'clock and, in spite of the deliberately fat-filled, death row breakfast that I try to consume in order to keep going for hours, my stomach had started to rumble. This tendency of my gastrointestinal tract to make its needs known has been an embarrassment since high school. I looked at my watch. It was a little after twelve noon. Time for a candy break. (Jonathan and I have learned the folly of leaving prisons in order to get lunch. It can take hours to get back inside.) I turned from Mr. Bundy, on whom my attention had been riveted, and tried to catch the eye of the guard to unlock the cubicle so that I could get to a candy machine. The guard was gone. Not only was he gone, but everyone else who worked in the surrounding offices had also disappeared. They had all gone to lunch. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was alone, locked in a soundproof room with a man who had murdered more than two dozen women. I was not happy.

I turned my attention back to Mr. Bundy. "You were saying?" To this day, I do not recall much of what he was saying; I do remember trying to remain calm and appear attentive. If Mr. Bundy knew the guard had left, he kept the knowledge to himself.... Only one of Mr. Bundy's statements during that period of time remains with me: "The man sitting before you never killed anyone." During a previous interview with him, Theodore Bundy had described to me in detail several of the murders he had committed. I made a clinical decision: I chose not to point out the discrepancy between our two interviews. Alone in a room with a serial killer is neither the time nor the place to quibble about inconsistencies.

From the Paperback edition.

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2006

    the agonizing truth about brutal childhood abuse

    Dorothy O. Lewis has dedicated her life¿s work to study why human beings murder. Her impressive, excellent book ¿Guilty by Reason of Insanity: A Psychiatrist Explores the Minds of Killers¿ is a harrowing read. It is shocking to learn about the actual acts of murder. They are usually seen as nothing but completely senseless evil acts¿until the appalling, perverted physical and sexual violence and abuses, which these murderers had endured as children, come to light. Exposed to brutal, merciless whippings, beatings, and abused in abhorrent ways as sexual slaves¿some of them through being sodomized¿they had to manage to survive their childhoods from hell in a constant state of terror. Many people still want to believe that people are born evil or that evilness afflicts a person out of nowhere or that some innate evilness makes a human being kill. But that is not true. The murderers whom we get to know in this gripping book have been through unspeakable horrors. They have damaged brains and mental illnesses. But the decisive and common factor for murderous acts is the experience of extremely traumatic childhood abuse. In many cases the barbaric, perverted torture caused the mind of the tortured child to split into multiple personalities. Dorothy Lewis, trained at Yale in a traditional, psychoanalytic way, could at first not recognize this devastating reality that helped these children survive and dissociate from their unbearable ordeals. Her interviews, wherein she gains a murderer¿s trust so that the split personalities dare to come out and communicate with her¿with their own names and characteristics, like a different way to talk, to look, to move¿are stunning, shocking, and painfully fascinating. Why do we look at murderers only as evil, perverted people who just must be put away or even silenced forever through the death penalty? Why don¿t we try to gain all possible information about what produced their crimes? To understand what makes a murderer kill does not mean to excuse the crime or to let him or her out of jail. Society has the right to be protected. But we could learn so much from every murderer about the origins of terrible killings and how to prevent them¿if we felt the responsibility to find out the reality and truth, and the reasons behind them. Thus, we could create a new, vitally important awareness about the devastating dangers and consequences of permitting violence against children. It is a great loss for humanity¿s growth that society is so blind, deaf and without any compassion for the ordeals of the victims of unfathomably monstrous childhood torture, which these murderers had to endure over and over again. In their interviews with Dorothy Lewis, they shared what happened to them often for the first time in their lives. Many of them could not remember any of it and could not explain why they had scars on their backs, their behinds and other parts of their bodies. Only dissociated parts, formed by their minds to help them survive, remembered the horrific abuses. It was frustrating to read how long it took and how skilled the interviewer had to ask her questions until these harrowingly mistreated human beings would share anything about their past¿which they did only when they had come to trust this bright and sensitive psychiatrist. It was mind-boggling to read that they did not want to reveal what they had suffered as children because they were afraid to paint their parents in a `bad light¿ and to loose their families if they did so¿which they feared especially when they were close to their executions and any information about their own plights might have saved their lives. Their parents were nothing but relieved if the truth remained a secret, hidden away¿even if it meant that their child would be executed and had no chance of having his or her life spared through information that would throw light on their violent insanity. It was moving and interesting to read how Dorothy Lewis describes her path f

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 18, 2003


    THis book kept me on the edge of my seat

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2003

    A Chilling Work!!!

    I was required to read "Guilty By Reason Of Insanity" for my freshman college psychology class. it's a great book both for the curious and those just interested in the phychology of violence.

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