The Mad, The Bad, And The Innocent

The Mad, The Bad, And The Innocent

by Barbara Kirwin
     
 

The New York area's premier forensic psychologist—the expert prosecutors turn to when a defendant claims insanity—looks back over her most celebrated cases to deliver a no-holds-barred critique of recent insanity defense abuses. Zeroing in on cases such as the Menendez brothers and Jeffrey Dahmer, Kirwin shows how unscrupulous defense attorneys and

Overview

The New York area's premier forensic psychologist—the expert prosecutors turn to when a defendant claims insanity—looks back over her most celebrated cases to deliver a no-holds-barred critique of recent insanity defense abuses. Zeroing in on cases such as the Menendez brothers and Jeffrey Dahmer, Kirwin shows how unscrupulous defense attorneys and overzealous prosecutors have perverted the true purpose of the insanity defense. of photos.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A former narcotics parole officer turned forensic psychologist, Kirwin has a 20-year record as a fake buster, specializing in spotting the phonies who try to plead insanity. Her job is to "cull the killers who have no inkling of the wrongfulness of their crime from those who know exactly what they have done. In other words, I try to separate the mad from the bad." It's a grueling task consisting of ten or more hours of face-to-face interviews, hours of standard psychological tests, meetings with family and friends, interviews with families of victims, and a study of case files, press clippings, along with medical, employment and school records as far back as kindergarten. Kirwin exposes the increasing abuse of the criminal insanity defense, with an entire chapter devoted to the problems raised by the "designer defense," a carefully fabricated insanity plea tailored to present the defendant as victim. She also comments on "media irresponsibility" and reviews some of her own cases (like Long Island serial killer Joel Rifkin) but also comments on the Menendez brothers, Susan Smith, Colin Ferguson and Jeffrey Dahmer in her discussions. The problem is that just when the reader gets hooked on one of these profiles, Kirwin suddenly shifts gears and moves to another subject. She has a polished, clear writing style, but in-depth insights into abnormal psychology and the criminal mind are abbreviated, barely tapping into the files one assumes she assembled on these subjects. A lengthy expansion of just three or four cases could have benefited this book. An NBC-TV movie on Kirwin's experiences is in development. (Sept.)
Library Journal
A leading forensic psychologist, who worked on the Joel Rifkin case, challenges the current use of the insanity defense.
School Library Journal
YAKirwin is a leading New York forensic psychologist who has tested, and testified for over 100 defendants who have pled insanity in criminal trials. Her assignment, usually at the request of the prosecution, is to see whether the insanity plea is valid in each instance. This practical experience lends gravitas to her reasoned criticism of the misuse of the insanity defense and the inadequate way in which the legal system deals with the criminally mentally ill. Interspersed with the thoughtful and fascinating case histories of defendants, ranging from serial killers to Susan Smith, is an evenhanded and clear exposition of the recent history and current use of the insanity plea. The author differentiates between psychopaths and the truly ill. Kirwin also explains that there is no such thing as "temporary insanity." The author also gives a concise and vividand appallinghistory of mental treatment during and since the Reagan administration. There is much food for class discussion and research here. An important and thoughtful book that will lead readers to a much clearer understanding of how inadequately mental illness is treated legally, and how this inadequacy affects even the healthy parts of society.Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Kirkus Reviews
A leading forensic psychologist explores recent use of the insanity defense—and whether or not some famous criminals were lying about their sanity.

Kirwin is often called in by New York prosecutors when the defendant claims insanity. She has interviewed some of the region's most notorious, including serial killer Joel Rifkin, who confessed to killing 17 prostitutes; Stephanie Wernick (who killed her baby in a C.W. Post bathroom); and Richard Taus (a soccer coach who systematically molested his players). Kirwin uses interviews and tests like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) to determine whether or not defendants are "faking bad," i.e., pretending to be insane. She gives a solid overview to the legality of pleading insane, a plea based on the British M'Naghten Rule, which states that a truly insane person does not know right from wrong, and she takes a firm and welcome stand against "designer defenses," such as Vietnam war syndrome, battered-woman syndrome, and any defense based on temporary insanity. But much of the book is episodic and messy, skipping between cases or leaving out crucial information, and repeating the case histories of several killers. It grows equally tiresome to read about how many of her subjects find her attractive or want to discuss her guns—details out of Cornwell rather than Conan Doyle. And it's a shame that Kirwin never fully explains how the MMPI works, and never gives examples of questions—and answers—that ferret out the true mental state of the subject. Her recommendations for the legal system are certainly provocative—no TV cameras in courtrooms, no warring experts (but, rather, one expert hired by the court), and no jury trials in insanity defense cases—but get short shrift at the end of the book.

Some fascinating tidbits, but an altogether haphazard study that might have been a useful reference text in the era of the abuse excuse.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316494991
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
07/30/2008
Pages:
324
Sales rank:
925,029
Product dimensions:
9.00(w) x 6.00(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range:
13 Years

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