Criminal Justice, Psychiatry Clash In Texas Cases


Dena Schlosser, police say, cut off the arms of her infant daughter, in Plano, Tx., last week. The case drew comparisons with those of Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her five children in a bathtub in 2001, and Deanna Laney, who killed two of her three sons in East Texas last year by bashing their skulls with rocks. In those and at least two other headline Texas cases in recent years, the worlds of criminal justice and psychiatry collided, and with little agreement about what should happen to the women involved, says the Houston Chronicle.

“There are people who feel a price must be paid and those who are willing to concede there is something called mental illness,” said Dr. Jaye Crowder, a forensic psychiatrist in Dallas. The idea that someone can become so ill that they do not know what they’re doing “is something terribly difficult for (some) people to understand.” Psychiatrist Sherwood Brown of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, said, “These cases present the courts with problems because of the vast differences between legal and psychological definitions. You can be psychotic and suffer from delusions and hear voices, and still know the difference between right and wrong, which is the legal definition of sanity.” The jury that found Laney not guilty by reason of insanity earlier this year, and the jury that convicted Yates of capital murder in 2002, were both criticized in reaching their verdicts, he said.


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