"THE MAD, THE BAD, AND THE INNOCENT" by Barbara R. Kirwin

"THE MAD, THE BAD, AND THE INNOCENT"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

A leading forensic psychologist explores recent use of the insanity defense--and whether or not some famous criminals were lying about their sanity. Kirwin is often called in by New York prosecutors when the defendant claims insanity. She has interviewed some of the region's most notorious, including serial killer Joel Rifkin, who confessed to killing 17 prostitutes; Stephanie Wernick (who killed her baby in a C.W. Post bathroom); and Richard Taus (a soccer coach who systematically molested his players). Kirwin uses interviews and tests like the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory (MMPI) to determine whether or not defendants are ""faking bad,"" i.e., pretending to be insane. She gives a solid overview to the legality of pleading insane, a plea based on the British M'Naghten Rule, which states that a truly insane person does not know right from wrong, and she takes a firm and welcome stand against ""designer defenses,"" such as Vietnam war syndrome, battered-woman syndrome, and any defense based on temporary insanity. But much of the book is episodic and messy, skipping between cases or leaving out crucial information, and repeating the case histories of several killers. It grows equally tiresome to read about how many of her subjects find her attractive or want to discuss her guns--details out of Cornwell rather than Conan Doyle. And it's a shame that Kirwin never fully explains how the MMPI works, and never gives examples of questions--and answers--that ferret out the true mental state of the subject. Her recommendations for the legal system are certainly provocative--no TV cameras in courtrooms, no warring experts (but, rather, one expert hired by the court), and no jury trials in insanity defense cases--but get short shrift at the end of the book. Some fascinating tidbits, but an altogether haphazard study that might have been a useful reference text in the era of the abuse excuse.

Pub Date: Aug. 11th, 1997
ISBN: 0316494992
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: "Little, Brown"