Lee Coleman – The Insanity Defence, Storytelling on the Witness Stand


This week on MIA Radio, we present our second chat with Doctor Lee Coleman. In the first interview in this series, we discussed Lee’s career, his views as a critical psychiatrist and his 1984 book Reign of ErrorFor this second interview, we focus on psychiatry in the courtroom and why the psychiatric expert witness role may be failing both the individual on trial and society at large. We also focus on Chapter 3 of Reign of Error: The Insanity Defence, Storytelling on the Witness Stand.

In this episode we discuss:

  • What led Lee to his involvement in the courtroom as a psychiatrist testifying as to the reliability of psychiatric testimony itself.
  • How both psychiatrists and psychologists have been given a role by society to judge both the current mental state of an individual on trial and also the potential future behaviour of that individual.
  • How important it is to address the three dimensions of past, present and future when looking at psychological testimony.
  • The role of psychiatry in the trial of Patty Hearst, when required to provide evidence that she has been brainwashed and therefore was incompetent to stand trial.
  • How Lee and a colleague, George Alexander, came to arrange a press conference to address the issue of the reliability of psychiatric or psychological testimony.
  • How speaking out in this way ultimately led to many years of opposition not only by psychiatry but also by attorneys on both sides of the debate.
  • The legal definition of the term ‘insanity’ and the context in which it is used.
  • How if someone is found legally insane, the punishment may be far worse and the incarceration far longer than if that person were found guilty.
  • The details surrounding the trial of Dr. Geza De Kaplany, who committed a gruesome murder but came to be represented at trial as having multiple personalities and being mentally disordered.
  • The inconsistency often found in both the defense and prosecution in the courtroom when it comes to subjective assessments of the mental state of an individual.
  • That it is crucial that people band together to share information and to actively demonstrate and have conferences and influence legislators because we can’t rely on media channels and we can’t rely on professional bodies.

Relevant Links:

Doctor Lee Coleman

The Reign of Error

YouTube – Competent to Stand Trial?- A Psychiatric Farce

YouTube – Society Doesn’t Need Protection from the “mentally ill”

The Trial of Patty Hearst

Geza De Kaplany

To get in touch, email us at [email protected]


  1. Hi Survived and thanks for the comment. In Szasz’ time and the early part of my experience, using so called “mental illness” or a claim of “insanity,” might have be a smart ploy by the accused and an attractive choice for a defense attorney, the idea being that lock up on a mental ward might mean easier conditions. Even then, all those phony evaluations, and having to ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ hoping to get on the right side of the psych techs, psych staff, etc was a bitch for the prisoners’ self-esteem and dignity. I always told the prisoners I talked to who had made that choice and found NGI that they had made a bargain with the devil.
    Now, anyone thinking that is a reasonable strategy, (forget about the issue of bogus nature of the claims), just doesn’t realize that they are trading the hope of fewer years lockup,(not at all something you can count on), for virtually certain brain damage, other bodily injuries from the drugs, much shorter life, and life long stigma from the disabilities produced when they do get out.

    If you know anyone in such a situation, please try to help them realize that it’s a bad choice and try to make sure the attorney, usually an overworked public defender, doesn’t sell them down the river just to get rid of the case.

    thanks again


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    • hi. i think you’re correct, of course. Szasz wrote in a different time, a different place. These days…the not guilty by reason of insanity (or whatever each state chooses to call it) verdicts are a dead end, even more so (usually…) than prison or jail time.

      The not guilty by reason of insanity pleas in my area are rare and, generally, ill advised. “guilty, but mentally ill” is also ill advised, because it is essentially 2x, even 3x the punishment, when one looks at the time spent incarcerated and the ‘treatment’ people receive.

      For people who can afford quality legal representation, it seems that using psych labels+history as a sort of mitigating factor is a far, far more desirable route. I kept tabs on one such case, and it seems the now convicted (guilty plea) individual ended up with a less severe felony and the possibility of parole, whereas his initial charge was essentially a death sentence.

      In psychiatry, one gets the “treatment you deserve,” often based on social class and overall status, leverage (or lack thereof). The legal system is notoriously biased towards those who have resources, higher overall status. Where the two intersect, I think the disparities become even more apparent.

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  2. I agree, the “mental health” workers do not have any insight into other people’s lives, in the past, present, or future. My psychiatrist was actually forced to declare my entire life to be “a credible fictional story” when I confronted him with his many delusions about who I am, written in his medical records.

    I personally have found “mental health” workers to be the worst listeners, the least insightful, and most delusional, not to mention “delusions of grandeur” filled people, I’ve ever personally met. I mean, what kind of “delusions of grandeur” does it take, to think a person will believe their entire life is “fictional”?

    But, then again, I recently had a non-clinical psychologist hand over an “art manager” contract, which was actually an I want to steal all profits from your artwork, take control of your artwork, your story, as well as all your family’s money and property, and control your accountants and lawyers contract. Eek! Of course I did not sign that contract, but the “delusions of grandeur” of the “mental health” workers know no bounds.

    And those child rape covering up “mental health” workers have no ethics either.


    Goodness, gracious, the artwork that’s all the rage with our so called “elite” today is “Spirit cooking” and pedophilia art.


    But our “mental health” workers want to steal from and/or murder all the Spirit led, anti-child abuse artists. Upside down and backwards, America. Including my child rape covering up ex-religion.


    Shame on all those who participate in “the dirty little secret of the two original educated professions.” Our country should be arresting the pedophiles, instead of having the “mental health” workers aiding, abetting, and empowering them, by defaming and poisoning the child abuse survivors and their families on a massive societal scale.

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  3. There is no way to predict violent behavior, not in the way that psychiatry does. I have personally been accused of future dangerousness by these fake psychics so many times that the accusations seriously harmed me. The worst were when they accused me of future suicidality when all I wanted to do was live–free of them.

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    • I’ve known lots of “diagnosed” “Schizophrenics” in Ireland and not one of them had even the expected levels of violence in their backgrounds.

      In London where I’ve lived for 30 years most normal men I know have a history of heavy physical interactions.

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  4. Thank you Julie and Fiachra for emphasizing two important points. There are so many absurdities of both “diagnosis” and predictions, it’s hard to include them all in the list. Here are couple more: The predictions have been shown to enhance the safety of the predictor, since no one (except the person being stigmatized) will complain about overestimation but will definitely complain later if the person is deemed “safe”and later does something wrong. So, play it safe by declaring they are unsafe.

    For “diagnosis” in psychiatry, it can never be “proven” to be wrong since it is a declaration having nothing to do with science. Besides, if the “therapist” becomes dissatisfied with what’s going on, it’s time to “discover” that the original diagnosis is wrong and a new one will justify a different “treatment plan”. In other words, in real medicine, diagnosis is a finding, but in psychiatry diagnosis is a strategy, designed to rationalize whatever the psychiatrist happens to favor. Then, he or she can always proudly proclaim that this is a case of “dual diagnosis.”

    On and on it goes because of their unwillingness to confront the truth, that psychiatry is not and never has been a science. When if does anything worthwhile, very rare indeed, it is despite its place within the medical family, certainly not because of it.

    Best to you


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    • I think it was the field of philosophy or logic that determined that while a person can easily be declared insane, it is not possible to then declare a known insane person sane.

      Thinking back, it was very easy to fake a psych diagnosis but it is not so easy to convince them you’re normal. No matter how normal you act, they can always claim you’re weaseling out of a hospitalization or drugs.

      Even most “invisible illnesses” can be detected by a test. Those that can’t…well, I doubt the validity of many of them.

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    • there’s also the use of stigma to control people/”patients,” and the use of drugs to reward or punish the psychiatrized. “Schizophrenia” is more commonly diagnosed in the poor, non-white, lower status. The softer landing of “Bipolar I” is a mixed bag, from what I’ve observed. When thrust upon someone, it is best seen as control, punishment. On the other hand, I’ve seen more affluent people use the Bipolar I label in their social networks (including school, work, family) to further their own ends. and then…

      the drugs. well-behaved, “making progress”=reduction in neuroleptic; discontinue neuroleptic or other toxic drugs (“maybe depakote isn’t the best thing for you, after all”). misbehavin’ (or ‘uppity’) patient: higher dose neuroleptic. introduce neuroelptic. rapid taper of controlled substances. add “personality disorder,” which also helps explain “treatment failure,” and justify referral to other “experts,” etc.

      Psych ‘professionals’ rarely tell the truth. obviously, truth-telling puts their entire industry at risk. 🙁

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    • And if someone goes on a murder spree while under psychiatric “treatments” we never hear about it. Since it’s always “in spite of” and shrinks can do no wrong. And the media has too many drug ads to “pill shame.”

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      • I’d disagree with this. Breggin points out a number of cases that were clearly at least negatively influenced by psych drugs, often heavy, long term drugging. The mainstream media…does.not.report this, usually. When the issue of psych ‘treatment’ comes up, it either becomes: ‘wow, they needed treatment…sad’ or ‘crazy, dangerous mental patient should’ve been locked up a long time ago…why did we shut down the state hospitals, again?’

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        • I meant we don’t hear about the “treatment” they went through.

          We always hear about the shooter’s “mental illness” even if a shrink has to “diagnose” him posthumously.

          These experts always go on TV to demonize those they say they’re “helping.” By attributing murders to “mental illness” they’re implying all those they label are would-be murderers. Character assassination is an act of compassion for shrinks.

          This idiocy leads to a lot of circular reasoning.

          So, Dr. Quackenbush, why did the mother murder her two preschoolers?
          Simple. She had Bipolar.
          How do you now she had Bipolar, Doctor?
          Because only a person with Bipolar would murder two small children.

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  5. James and Lee, Thanks for this podcast, it is a very interesting conversation. I admire Lee’s candor in speaking out about the many harmful fallacies of psychiatry and that his distaste for their beliefs led him to refuse to join the APA as he “did not want to be a part of that family”. I hope many more find time to listen to this podcast. (I wonder if it was also in text format if it would make it more convenient for some) Lee made some good suggestions in the last 4-5 minutes that I know were stirring to me in wanting to think about what more I can do to get “thinking, caring, concerned people to stir up trouble”.

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  6. Morning

    I just had an idea. I think these comments to my latest podcast with James would make a fantastic article, printed just as they are, with all of us being co-authors. What a perfect example of a collaboration of authors with their own experiences and backgrounds, all concluding that psychiatry is a noxious influence on our society and that in the struggle for change, all who see the light are welcome.

    We could spread it around the web, with just a little intro, so various audiences having nothing to do with MIA would understand the context. The more the article was seen, the more people would learn about MIA and its activities, etc.


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  7. Apparently, Lee, my comments sometimes disappear seemingly at random, so I don’t know if you’ll see this one, or not…. Here’s what I always say about psychiatry:
    “Psychiatry is a pseudoscience, a drug racket, and a means of social control. It’s 21st Century Phrenology, with potent neuro-toxins. Psychiatry has done, and continues the do, FAR MORE HARM, than good.
    The DSM-5 is a catalog of billing codes, nothing more. ALL of the bogus “diagnoses” in it were either INVENTED, or else CREATED. NONE of them were “discovered”. So-called “mental illnesses” are exactly as “real” as presents from Santa Claus, but not more real. Psychiatry exists solely to $ELL DRUG$ for PhRMA, and act as social control against those whom Society deems “inconvenient”…..

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  8. Hi Bradford and thanks for getting in touch

    I agree with every single word! This tells me you two very critical things about you: You are a deep, critical thinker, like me, and you have a lot of emotion attached to these issues, like me, and want to show rather than shun those feelings.

    Those are exactly the two qualities needed most if we are to have any chance of changing the holocaust that is coming from psychiatry, now armed and loaded by the richest companies in the world in league with the most corrupt governments.


    There are tons of people who understand what we do, and tons of people who have strong feelings about it, but almost nobody who can do both. Examples are Ron Bassman, Jim Gottstein, Laura Delano (give her three stars). If you want to pursue things, please send me something that I can see on my computer, writing, interview,link to something, etc. You have my word I will check it out.

    If not, thank you again, and keep on doing what your heart tells you, and all the best.


    ps if you want to post any of this to MIA or anywhere else, none of it is private.

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