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 Error. For 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.
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