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Wrightsman's Psychology and the Legal System 9th Edition

Wrightsman's Psychology and the Legal System (9th Edition)

Book Edition9th Edition
Author(s)Greene, Heilbrun
The Scope of Forensic Psychology
The Insanity Defense
Chapter 10, The Insanity Defense, CRITICAL THOUGHT QUESTION, Exercise 04
Page 236

Is The Insanity Defense Relevant to Possible Terrorist Acts? The 2016 Ohio State Attack


On November 28, 2016, a young man who was a student at Ohio State University drove a car on campus and deliberately rammed students, and then jumped out and stabbed a number of them with a knife. The man was identified as Abdul Razak Ali Artan; he was a Somali refugee who was a legal permanent resident of the United States. He was quickly shot and killed by a nearby campus police officer. Ironically, Artan had been selected earlier that year, at random, for an interview for the campus paper, with the interview appearing in August. In the interview, Artan talked about his Muslim faith, and why it was important for him to have a quiet place to pray. He added that Ohio State seemed "huge" to him, and that he was "kind of scared" as a Muslim, considering how the media portrayed those of his faith. Early investigations following the attack could not definitively conclude that this was an act of terrorism—that kind of conclusion should be reached only after an intensive and detailed review—but authorities could not rule out terrorist motivation, despite the absence of an immediate indication that Abdul Artan was acting with such motivations.


(Instructor's Manual): For the answer to this question to be "yes" (or even possibly), several considerations would be relevant. First, unless a criminal court were to interpret radical Jihadist ideology as a "mental disease or defect" (without the defendant showing signs of having a severe mental illness or intellectual disability), then there would be no "threshold issue" on which to based the claim of insanity. But assuming that a defendant could make a convincing argument about having both symptoms of a severe mental illness and radical Jihadist

beliefs, then the next question would be whether this combination kept the individual from understanding the nature, quality, or wrongfulness of terrorist acts—or conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law.


Perhaps we should not be surprised that terrorist acts and the insanity defense are rarely mentioned together. Our best evidence is that the strongest influences on the development of radical Jihadist ideology are cultural, religious, and political—not the result of mental illness. Even for individuals who might have a recognizable mental disorder and become radicalized, it would seem far more likely that they would remain committed to their radical beliefs than agree to a defense that excuses criminal conduct based on mental illness or

intellectual disability.


Critical Though Question


Is the insanity defense ever relevant to such acts?

Page 236