Home
Loading
  Contact Us    
Mental Illness and Moral Depravity

The Conundrum of Lee Malvo.

by Barnabas
November 19, 2003

Bookmark and Share


Mental Illness and Moral Depravity_Barnabas-The Conundrum of Lee Malvo
In fact, the vast majority of people with a mental illness would be judged "sane" if current legal tests for insanity were applied to them. A mental illness may explain a person's behavior. It seldom excuses it.
— American Psychiatric Association

As a result, the trial of Malvo will not focus on whether he shot and killed off-duty FBI agent Linda Franklin, but will focus on the teenager's sanity at the time of the shooting.
— Kevin Drew, CNN.com

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
— Jeremiah

"The term psychopath is usually used to describe a mental illness, the sociopath is an individual who habitually violates known norms and laws" (as cited in Culwell, 1998, p.2). The main difference between the two is the consistent criminal behavior of the sociopath. Therefore, "all sociopaths are psychopathic, while not all psychopaths are sociopathic, due to the absence of the overt criminal behavior that defines sociopathology" (Culwell, 1998, p.2).
— Quoted by Rebecca Horton in her paper, “The Sociopath.”

“Gee, Officer Krupke, I’m down on my knees,
‘cuz no one wants a fella with a social disease.”

West Side Story
For several years now I have been in fairly regular contact with mental health professionals, but it’s been forty years since I heard one of them use the word “insane” to describe a patient. The word has degenerated into a lighthearted put-down, as in “You’re insane!” in response to an outlandish proposal or comment. About the only place where the word is still used seriously is in a courtroom, and there it’s been redesigned to suit legal purposes.

Lee Malvo wants to be treated as a mentally ill person, protected from the harsh demands of justice, as though mental illness were a refuge from moral responsibility. It’s better to be protected and patronized, as are many of the mentally ill, than to be respected and punished.

Perhaps he was mentally ill, perhaps he still is. If he is, it will affect how the court treats him. But mental illness does not mitigate the evil. Whoever killed those people, one after another, was without conscience. To be without conscience is more that sociopathy or psychopathy; it is depravity.

But what is that? I just learned from the Internet of an earnest attempt to develop a “depravity scale” that will offer objective guidance to the legal profession and forensic psychiatry. I understand the felt need for such a scale, but I doubt that its results will be very useful. I suppose from a legal point of view, depravity must be defined by behavior; but from a moral point of view, it is defined as hardness of heart. Three of the most depraved persons in my literary memory were guilty of no crime, unless killing a pet bird is a crime, as in Susan Glaspell’s Trifles; unless living entirely for one’s own comfort is a crime, as in Elizabeth Goudge’s The Rosemary Tree: unless being consumed by envy is a crime, as in Charles Williams’s Descent into Hell. These are all very minor classics, but their authors demonstrate an understanding of depravity that no mere crime will ever comprehend.

Mental illness and moral depravity are neither synonyms nor opposites. Any of us could be both mentally ill and morally depraved.

(0 Comments)
Post a Comment

Send Us Your Opinion
(Comments are moderated.)
Your Name:*


Your E-Mail Address:*
(Confidential. Will not be published.)


Location:


Comments:*
Note: In order to control automated spam submissions, URLs are no longer permitted in this form.



Verification:
Please type the letters you see above.

  Printer-Friendly

Bookmark and Share


EMAIL ALERTS
Sign up to receive an e-mail notice when new articles by this author are published. Your address remains confidential, and you may cancel at any time. A confirmation email will be sent.

Your e-mail address:
Mental Illness and Moral Depravity
po Books
Now Available!

Teachings of a Three Year Old... Turned Tyke,
by Hal Evan Caplan.

A father learns from the wisdom of his toddler.

More Information.

More by Barnabas
Barnabas Says Goodbye
Moving on, not moving out.
by Barnabas, 1/19/05
Seats on the Fifty-Yard Line
Yet another American value.
by Barnabas, 1/12/05
Ethical Endgame
When children become sexual slaves.
by Barnabas, 12/15/04
Eighteen Years on Death Row
We have redefined 'speedy trial' and 'cruel and unusual.'
by Barnabas, 12/8/04
Hard on Drugs, Soft in the Head
Legalizing marijuana.
by Barnabas, 12/1/04
Wesley and Wal-Mart
Destructive competition as a stinky enterprise.
by Barnabas, 11/24/04
The Mandate to Govern
Third party time.
by Barnabas, 11/17/04
» Complete List (137)


Recently Published
View Article Salvator Mundi
Not the painting but the Person
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/7/17
When the Newsman Becomes News
Lamenting yet another fallen hero
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 12/1/17
Let's Hear It for Moms and Pops
Celebrating Small Business Saturday in a very personal way
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/22/17
An Earthquake in La La Land
Examining what's been exposed in the rubble
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/17/17
Where is God?
Reflecting on the tragedy in a little Texas town
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/10/17
An All Saints Day Tribute
Remembering those who left us
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 11/3/17
A Mighty Fortress was His God
Remembering the legacy of Martin Luther 500 years later
by Greg Asimakoupoulos, 10/27/17

Get the Partial Observer's
'recently published' headlines via RSS.


RSS Feed for Recently Published PO Articles    What is RSS?

Reproduction of original material from The Partial Observer without written permission is strictly prohibited.
The opinions expressed by site contributors do not necessarily reflect those of the editors.
Copyright ©2000-2017 partialobserver.com. All rights reserved.
Home · Site Map · Top