Monday, April 17, 2006

Moussaoui May have Schizophrenia

Yes, Moussaoui, you're right. It is a lot of American B.S.

Update: Well, the American B.S. continues with this gem:

A defense psychologist said Tuesday he concluded Zacarias Moussaoui is a paranoid schizophrenic based on observations of the actions and writings of the terrorist conspirator, a man described earlier as convinced President Bush will set him free....

Psychologist Xavier Amador said the clincher in his diagnosis was an April 2005 encounter with Moussaoui in which the defendant in the nation's only Sept. 11, 2001, prosecution repeatedly spit water on him — and appeared to be talking to himself.

Dr. Amador, I say spitting on you only proves Moussaoui's sanity is intact.


Blogger Anna said...

Reading the part about his background made me almost sympathetic. And then I remembered who I was feeling sympathy towards.

B.S. indeed.

5:09 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger Mercurior said...

does a traumatic childhood give any one the right to kill others.

i know other people abused worse than him, and they havent killed anyone. thats just an excuse.

5:49 PM, April 17, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So let me see if I have this straight. Because his father and uncle beat him, his sister and mother the way men treat women and children in the Islamic world, we should feel sorry for him?

Perhaps this is more of a reason to work for change in the the way families are treated in islam? Or we let them be and execute them when their murderous natures are revealed?

I am an orphan, I've known many who had horrific childhoods, yet none I know are intent on murdering. Poor pitiful murderous sociopath. Are we to feel sympathy for every islamic terrorist whose mother and sisters were beaten by his father?

6:15 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


Hey, Yale will probably take this guy a lot sooner than any one of the guys from the Duke Lacrosse team--even if they are found not guilty.

7:03 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger XWL said...

I guess I read blogs too much.

The second thing I thought when I heard that about Moussaoui was, 'I bet Dr. Helen agrees with him'

(the first thought was, 'boo effin' hoo (with regards to the testimony of the social workers and Moussaoui's sister that is)')

9:49 PM, April 17, 2006  
Blogger TigerHawk said...

Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke,
You gotta understand,
It's just our bringin' up-ke
That gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies,
Our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we're punks!

1:14 PM, April 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, back before the 60s, how many Jews were rejected by their non-Jewish girlfriends' families as "dirty Jews"? How many of them killed thousands of innocent people?

3:01 PM, April 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's funny that the psychologist says he already had suspicions about Moussaoui that were later confirmed. A psychologist should know about a little thing called "confirmation bias," that we are more likely to notice information that confirms our suspicions. Not great.

Also, did he ever consider that a man who has clearly seen ever American killing-related movie ever made could be manipulating him with that info? It seems that there's a yearly quota in Hollywood for a movie w/a killer who later "acts crazy" to get out of it. He's likely to know this stuff.

3:17 PM, April 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pardon me for being insensitive, but where does the question of his sanity excuse his actions?

We shoot mad dogs, don't we?

3:36 PM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Helen; I am used to the idea that it is somehow unacceptable for criminal defendants to be diagnosed as mentally ill, as if diagnosis is a gimmicky luxury that only law-abiding people deserve. But I am surprised to see it from a professional psychologist like you. It's almost as if you're renouncing your training.

It seems completely believable that Moussaoui has paranoid schizophrenia. After all, he clearly has been irrational and paranoid in his trial. Both of his sisters are in mental institutions and have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. His father also had some similar diagnosis. So isn't it a stretch to argue that he acts like he has the same disease as several of his relatives, but actually doesn't?

Certainly at this point it has nothing to do with whether Moussaoui is innocent or guilty, because it is just the sentencing phase. In my mind, it also has little to do with feeling sorry for him. It seems meaningless and crazy to me to execute mentally ill people when the alternative is life without parole. It makes no sense as penance, nor as rehabilitation, nor as a deterrent. It's really beating a dead horse. It would make me feel sorry for the justice system, not for Moussaoui himself.

In fact, it's a bit like the case of Jacques Clément, who was "executed" in 1589 for regicide even though he was already dead. Really, if it's necessary to execute people with schizophrenia, then you might as well fry, gas, or hang people who commit murder-suicide, or murderers who resist arrest and are killed by the police. Society is just making a statement to itself by doing these things — a negative and superstitious statement.

It is true that dangerous animals are sometimes put to sleep, but that's practical safety, not justice. That is only done when it isn't practical to cage them. Animals aren't really innocent or guilty, they are only safe or dangerous. If they are safe enough in cages, then it's the same kind of artificial justice to kill them anyway.

8:03 PM, April 18, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He must really be subhuman. Greg would find it impossible to express comprehension of where he is coming from otherwise. I presume his math recommendations are good, however.

8:35 PM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Assistant Village Idiot said...

Lifelong feminist therapy? I might take the death penalty instead.

The insanity defense is probably his attorney's best shot at keeping him from the chair, so I don't blame him for trying it.

If he really is insane, then it would be a terrible precedent to execute him. But I suspect that the symptoms of spitting water, talking to himself, and having grandiose, unrealistic hopes won't hold up much of a diagnosis. I think it's been known for centuries that people who commit heinous crimes see things a bit differently than the rest of us. If we held to that standard, we couldn't punish anyone for anything.

11:18 PM, April 18, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

AVI: If he really is insane, then it would be a terrible precedent to execute him.

No, AVI, it would be bad, but it would not be a precedent. A number of mentally ill criminals have been executed in the United States in recent years. For example, Kelsey Patterson was repeatedly diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, but was nonetheless executed in 2004.

The mentality of many prosecutors is that if a capital defendant is anything short of a complete raving lunatic, so crazy that he doesn't know where or who he is, then he's sane enough for exeuction. A lot of mentally ill people still have some sense of presence and can antagonize other people. If they can antagonize the jury, then the jury might agree with the prosecutor that the defendant is not crazy enough to avoid the death penalty.

Besides Moussaoui's own clearly irrational behavior, there is the fact that several of his relatives have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. One would think that that matters. I have to wonder what standards the court psychiatrist, Raymond Patterson, had in mind when he concluded that Moussaoui was competent to represent himself. Patterson spent a whole two hours examining Moussaoui, according to reports. I don't know how you can decide in that amount of time that someone is erratic and strange, but nonetheless sane.

12:23 AM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Helen said...


One must have more than a mental illness to warrant legal insanity. Mental abnormality alone does not excuse according to most definitions of legal insanity. It must also cause the further condition of incapacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of one's actions or to control one's conduct. How much capacity must be lacking is a legal, normative standard that can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. In other words, a defendant can have a mental illness but not meet the criteria for legal insanity.

6:34 AM, April 19, 2006  
Blogger Greg Kuperberg said...

Helen: I will grant you that it is fair to distinguish between some degree of mental illness and legal insanity. But there are other relevant distinctions here as well. Is Moussaoui (a) competent to stand trial? Is he (b) competent to represent himself? Is he (c) not guilty by reason of insanity? And is he (d) sane enough to deserve execution?

The court has already decided the first three. I can believe that Moussaoui was sane enough to stand trial and sane enough to be found guilty. But it is not at all clear that he was examined long enough to decide that he was competent to represent himself. After all, his actual legal "defense" made no sense and didn't seem remotely competent. It was really just a waste of the court's time. That travesty seems only consistent with the possibility that he has paranoid schizophrenia. That's a pretty serious disease. Even he had had a JD, would he have been mentally fit to represent anyone else? Certainly it seems like a stretch to decide it in two hours, if that is how long Patterson took.

Then there is execution. Let's suppose that he is sane enough to be found guilty, but nonetheless seriously mentally ill. What does it accomplish to execute someone like that, when the alternative is life without parole?

10:45 AM, April 19, 2006  
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