Let's just say for argument's sake, that at one time in the distant past -- the lawmakers and judges who came up with our criminal law thought they knew what they were doing., whatever the ultimate truth may have been.
But I would argue that we don't have that luxury anymore. Now psychiatry which has often done such a great job of raising questions AND often struggled and stumbled in accurately answering them, especially in the area of the criminal law, once again appears to be the "Emperor Without Any Clothes."
While the National Institute of Mental Health is doing its best to push psychiatrists in the direction of "clinical neuroscience," we are far from that day. In the meantime, mental health professionals rely on an increasingly outdated yet growing Diagnostic & Statistical Manual (DSM), that is oblivious to the harm it causes by both acts of omission and commission.
I'm not saying everything in the DSM is wrong, AND I am saying it is definitely "on the near side of complexity," and cannot reliably be relied upon when we now know that there are literally billions and billions of neural circuits in the brain, our understanding of brain disorders as chemical imbalances is far too simplistic and is actually causing harm (see the Youtube TedxTalk below of Neuroscientist David Anderson from Cal Tech), and this information is all vitally important to a finding of criminal guilt -- which must be "proven beyond a reasonable doubt."
The Clayton Lockett "botched execution," is also notable for another although not unusual reason: in the trial court, a failed "mitigating factors" defense during the penalty phase largely rested on the defense's assertion that Clayton Lockett had PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the State argued that Mr. Lockett had instead "Anti-Social Personality Disorder."
Dr. Call told the jury that he had interviewed Mr. Lockett and tried to administer a personality test but that Mr. Lockett had refused to cooperate. But even without the personality test, Dr. Call testified, he was able to conclude that Mr. Lockett did not suffer from any mental illness. Dr. Call asserted that Mr. Lockett displayed no symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Dr. Call testified, however, that Mr. Lockett had anti-social personality disorder and was a psychopath.
See below a link to Erin Burnett with CNN and with one of Mr. Lockett's attorneys -- Oklahoma criminal defense attorney David Autry. Autry, a brilliant criminal defense attorney, was one of my colleagues many years ago in Oklahoma.
See CalTech TedxTalk with neuroscientist DavidAnderson, making many points, including that we need to have a much more complicated and sophisticated view of the brain beyond simply the brain being bathed in a bag of chemical soup.
Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., circa 1894
"I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, But I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
This quote begins a chapter entitled "On Simplicity and Complexity" in . . . [the] book entitled "The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace" (John Paul Lederach). The thesis of the chapter is that you have to "complexify before you simplify" (33) because the simplicity that comes before knowing all of the varying in sundry complicating factors in a situation is really worthless, inane and naïve. But, often times, the true answer is also remarkably simple: you just have to be on the far side of complexity in order to see it clearly.
[Parenthetically, I first came across this quotation of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr's. from self-help and business leadership guru Stephen Covey]
Dr. Tom Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health
Currently, patients with mental disorders are treated episodically with medications that are focused on symptoms and not on the core pathology. The available treatments are slow, incomplete, and can be limited by adverse effects. In mental disorders, just as in the rest of medicine, better understanding of pathophysiology should yield diagnosis based on biomarkers and treatments based on rational designs targeting the pathophysiology
Dr. Elias Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health
“The explosion of data about the brain is overwhelming conventional ways of making sense of it," said Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D., Director of the National Institutes of Health. "Like the Human Genome Project, the Human Brain Project is building shared databases in standardized digital form, integrating information from the level of the gene to the level of behavior. These resources will ultimately help us better understand the connection between brain function and human health.”
Of particular interest, see:
Psychopathy Linked to Specific Structural Abnormalities in the Brain
And after you've wept, let's work together to see that our badly beaten criminal justice system comports with reality and constitutional principles of due process, equal protection, and fundamental justice.
We can get to the far side of complexity, but pretending we are already there is literally killing us.