Are Insane Acts Not Crimes by Definition?
I get that the law is full of technical distinctions and processes to determine how they apply in specific instances, but the outcome of a patricide and attempted matricide in Tiverton really emphasizes the strange conclusion to which such legal findings lead
Joel Beaulieu was found not guilty by reason of insanity because he “suffers from schizoaffective disorder, which can result in manic and depressive episodes, loss of contact with reality, and inability to distinguish right from wrong.”
According to court documents, in the days that preceded the attack, Beaulieu, who at the time lived with his parents, had trouble sleeping, was paranoid with violent impulses and had auditory hallucinations. …
“It was kill or be killed in my frame of mind,” Beaulieu told Dr. Barry Wayne Wall, director of forensic services at Eleanor Slater Hospital in Cranston, who interviewed Beaulieu at the Adult Correctional Institutions, according to court documents.
Joel stabbed his father “more than 50 times” until he died in his kitchen. His badly wounded mother made it out to the driveway. Is it possible to commit such an act without being insane? Sure, some killers will hear voices, and some won’t. Some will express thoughts indicating paranoia; others’ lunacy will be indicated by different pathologies.
I’m not questioning the judgment in this case, and I’m not worried that an insane asylum will be any less of a prison. (Although, I note with a chill that on the day of the murder “Beaulieu told his treating physician he was feeling better,” and I wonder about the process of his future therapy.) But it seems to me that we introduce some dangerous concepts when it becomes legitimate to judge a person’s guilt by his or her frame of mind.
Essentially, Beaulieu’s claim is one of self defense, and the state’s course of action is to treat him for the mental disorder that led him to feel threatened when he wasn’t. Again, what motive for killing loving parents would not be an act of insanity? Or is it only a crime to kill people who give one a reason to want them dead?