Sort of a jumble: part an autobiographical tracing of Lubin's career as co-chief of Bellevue's prison ward, community...


GOOD GUYS, BAD GUYS: From Bellevue to Berkowitz--Violent Crime and Psychiatry's Dilemma

Sort of a jumble: part an autobiographical tracing of Lubin's career as co-chief of Bellevue's prison ward, community psychiatry unit head, and freelance expert witness; part an account of his involvement as defense psychiatrist in the Son of Sam trial; and part an unfocused critique of the insanity defense and media exploitation of violence. Lubin emphasizes that the justice system often breaks down at the competency-for-trial stage, as wily defendants use every trick in the book to ""bug out"" for the state hospital rather than face trial. (""You want crazy? I'll show you crazy,"" said one defendant, who then urinated on the floor.) At Bellevue, Lubin labored mightily to prevent ""bad buys"" from abusing the system, and worked equally hard to get civil commitments for ""good guys"" (the legitimately mentally ill)--whose lawyers, ironically, often fought hard to prove they were sane: ""In the sixties, we were suffering from the popularity of a book called The Myth of Mental Illness . . . . All the lawyers at Bellevue and read it."" As an expert witness in insanity defense homicide cases, Lubin is picky: the defense, he feels, is really for one-time defendants ("". . . if there are insane murderers who are 'good guys' they are not recidivists. . .""). Of course, as Lubin admits, a jury may privately find a defendant nuts but, outraged by his behavior, demand punishment. Something similar may have been at work on the judicial/prosecutorial level in the David Berkowitz (Son of Sam) case, where even the psychiatrists waffled and Lubin ultimately came out in the minority. Berkowitz was a man ""pretending to be sane,"" Lubin insists, and he clearly thinks it a travesty that he was allowed to plead guilty. But his lengthy recap of psychiatric testimony in the case bogs down, a definite odor of sour grapes creeps in (Lubin's draft public letter to Son of Sam, written at police request at the height of the manhunt, was never used), and a final chapter on the relationship of TV violence to violent crime seems tacked on. A few good war stories, a small glimpse inside the Berkowitz defense camp--and that's all.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: McGraw-Hill

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1981

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