The psychopath presents a number of issues for the legal system, in particular the question of criminal responsibility. Specifically, is psychopathy a condition which should relieve a criminal defendant of responsibility for his actions? Part II of this Comment describes the characteristics of psychopathy so the reader will have a better understanding of the type of individual in question. In addition, Part II presents the current psychiatric criteria for labeling an individual a psychopath. Part III of this Comment presents the prominent psychiatric view that psychopaths by virtue of their diagnosis should be exonerated from criminal liability. This view has evolved out of the idea that psychopathy is a condition that results from certain causal factors, and in Part III the biological and psychological explanations for the causes of psychopathy are examined. Further, a response is made to the view that where causal agents can be identified for behavior, the defendant should be legally excused for his or her actions. Since all behavior is in some sense "caused," this view cannot substantiate excusing a person merely because he or she has a diagnosable mental illness. Rather, some other basis for excuse must be discovered. Part IV of this Comment discusses the most logical basis for excusing those with diagnosable mental illnesses. The basis for the excuse must be tied to the reasons most "normal" people are held criminally responsible for their actions. Yet, in Part V, this Comment demonstrates that psychopathy itself is not a proper subject for the insanity defense. Thus, the American Law Institute was perfectly correct in trying to exclude individuals diagnosed as psychopaths from presenting evidence of their antisocial behavior as the sole basis for relief from criminal liability.
The Psychopath and the Definition of "Mental Disease or Defect" under the Model Penal Code Test of Insanity: A Question of Psychology or a Question of Law?,
69 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol69/iss1/7