Articles Tagged with insanity

Here are a couple of interesting items exploring the mental health issues potentially involved with Major Nidal Malik Hasan’s shooting rampage at Fort Hood – conclusion, he’s sane.

Howard Bloom asks, What if Nidal Malik Hasan is Sane?  Psychology Today blog.

Were they the insane acts of a man driven over the edge by the vicarious stress of war? By the strain of hearing horror stories from the traumatized veterans of battles in Iraq and Iran?

Sane or insane, Major Hasan’s mental state before and during his alleged offenses will be raised in his court-martial.  Death penalty cases are different so sayeth they U.S. Supreme Court.  Everything must be raised that could possibly have some impact on either the finding of guilt to a capital charge or in sentencing.  The Supreme Court decision in Porter v. McCollum makes it clear that failure to raise mental health issues, including PTSD, will likely lead to a finding of ineffective assistance of counsel.  A distinction can be argued between Porter and Hasan — one was in combat, the other about to get into vicarious PTSD issues.  But any competent attorney for Major Hasan has to consider the mental health issues as vital to the defense presentation. 

Been gone for a family emergency so I won’t go too far back.  But . . .

DoD reports that: reports:

Having now admitted to murder, Fort Lewis Spc. Ivette Davila today awaits word on whether she will face the death penalty for it.

Davila, 23, an Army chemical specialist, is charged with killing Staff Sgt. Timothy Miller and Sgt. Randi Miller in their Parkland home March 2, 2008, soaking their bodies in muriatic acid and kidnapping their 7-month-old daughter.

If Major Hasan raises an insanity defense for his acts at Fort Hood, how might the defense actually work if at all.

Presumably he will present a combination of witnesses and documents.  The media is reporting that prior to reporting to Fort Hood Major Hasan had “problems” so there will be witnesses to odd or strange behavior; there will be witnesses to the nature of his work and whether he could suffer vicarious traumatization; and there will be other witnesses to how he behaved.  Then there may well be psychological testimony.

Here is a link to the Digest for the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF): “Core Criminal Law Subjects: Defenses: Lack of Mental Responsibility.”

In Part I, I briefly outlined the formal examination process prior to presenting an insanity/lack of mental responsibility defense.  Now here is some information on the “law” or legal standard for an insanity defense.  This is the defense that Major Hasan and his lawyers are going to have to consider for his actions at Fort Hood.  The outlines can be found in Rule for Courts-Martial (RCM) 916(k).


You can immediately see why PTSD might not be sufficient of a mental health issue to be a defense rather than mitigation, because:


The military (insanity) lack of mental responsibility defense is set out in several places relevant to Major Hasan and the events at Fort Hood.  The first step that should be taken by a prudent convening authority in this case is to order a mental examination under R.C.M. 706, as soon as Major Hasan is medically fit.  Major Hasan and his counsel could arrange for a private examination at the major’s own expense.  But should they attempt to put on an insanity/lack of mental responsibility defense the prosecution will certainly persuade the military judge to order a government examination.


There are two reports: the first is a short form with the answers to the basic questions.  The short form is given to the commander at Fort Hood, his legal advisor, the prosecution, and the military judge.  A long and detailed report is given only to the defense.  Thus the examination and a large part of the work is privileged.  Mil. R. Evid. 302 sets out the privileged nature of the examination, and the exceptions.  The defense becomes the gatekeeper of the report.  Should the defense seek to put on a lack of mental responsibility (insanity) defense the report may well have to be disclosed.  Should the examination find the major currently incompetent, then he’s off to the federal confinement facility at Butner, NC, under Article 76b, UCMJ.  There is currently one service-member at Butner under Article 76b.


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