News and Commentary Archive

Explore recent scientific discoveries and news as well as CLBB events, commentary, and press.

Mission

The speed of technology in neuroscience as it impacts ethical and just decisions in the legal system needs to be understood by lawyers, judges, public policy makers, and the general public. The Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Law, Brain, and Behavior is an academic and professional resource for the education, research, and understanding of neuroscience and the law. Read more

The Trials of Teresa Sheehan

By Sandra Allen | BuzzFeed | July 9, 2015

On Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008, a social worker named Heath Hodge arrived at a three-story residence in San Francisco’s Mission District. Hodge was employed by a nonprofit called Conard House, which runs several cooperatives for adults with mental illnesses throughout the city. As Hodge climbed the stairs to the bedrooms on the second floor, one resident in particular was on his mind.  Continue reading »

Distraught People: Deadly Results

By Wesley Lowery, Kimberly Kindy, and Keith L. Alexander | The Washington Post | June 30, 2015

It was not yet 9 a.m., and Gary Page was drunk. The disabled handyman had a long history of schizophrenia and depression and, since his wife died in February, he had been struggling to hold his life together.

That bright Saturday morning in March, something snapped. Page, 60, slit his wrists, grabbed a gun and climbed the stairs to his stepdaughter’s place in the Pines Apartments in Harmony, Ind. He said he wanted to die. And then he called 911.

“I want to shoot the cops,” Page slurred to the dispatcher, prodding his stepdaughter to confirm that, yes, he had a gun. “I want them to shoot me.”

Minutes later, Page’s death wish was granted. Two Clay County sheriff’s deputies arrived to find that he had taken a neighbor hostage. They opened fire, striking him five times in the torso and once in the head. Page’s gun later turned out to be a starter pistol, loaded only with blanks. His threats of violence turned out to be equally empty, the product of emotional instability and agonizing despair.

Continue reading »

Where Law and Order Meets Paranoid and Schizophrenic

By Alysia Santo | The Marshall Project | March 18, 2015

Doctors tell Ronald he is schizophrenic, but he doesn’t believe them. For the past few weeks, he’s been an inmate and patient on the 19th floor of Bellevue Hospital, where mentally ill prisoners, mostly from Rikers Island, are held in a ward called the forensic unit.

Just down the hall from the forensic unit is a small courtroom, where Ronald (name changed to maintain patient privacy) appeared on a recent Tuesday in his light-blue hospital pajamas and slippers, his hands and feet cuffed. This is not the court where Ronald will be tried for the felony he’s facing, if indeed he ever gets to trial. The issue here — the only issue in Room 19E2 — is whether the mentally ill can be treated against their will. Ronald was refusing to take medication, so Bellevue applied to the court to administer antipsychotic drugs over his objection. “I used to have a mental illness in the past, but not anymore,” Ronald insisted to Judge Arthur Engoron, who was tasked with deciding between the patient and the hospital. Continue reading »

Video: Will insanity save Scott Panetti from execution? Dr. Judith Edersheim on HuffPostLive

Texas plans to execute a paranoid schizophrenic tomorrow. Activists are pleading with Governor Perry or the Supreme Court to intervene. Is this “cruel and unusual punishment”? How should the law handle mad people who commit capital crimes?

CLBB’s Dr. Judith Edersheim participated in a HuffPostLive conversation to discuss the insanity defense in light of the case of Scott Panetti, who was sentenced to die for the 1992 murder of his wife’s parents. At his murder trial, acting as his own defense lawyer, he dressed as a cowboy and called on Jesus, John F. Kennedy, and the Pope as witnesses. Panetti has been hospitalized many times since for psychosis and delusions.

View the conversation below, or on HuffPostLive, which also included Dahlia Lithwick, Slate legal affairs correspondent; George Parnham, criminal defense attorney; and Heather Beaudoin, of Conservatives Concerned About the Death Penalty. Josh Zepps hosted. Continue reading »

Myth vs. Fact: Violence and Mental Health

By Lois Beckett | ProPublica | June 19, 2014

After mass shootings, like the ones these past weeks in Las Vegas, Seattle and Santa Barbara, the national conversation often focuses on mental illness. So what do we actually know about the connections between mental illness, mass shootings and gun violence overall?

To separate the facts from the media hype, we talked to Dr. Jeffrey Swanson, a professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Duke University School of Medicine, and one of the leading researchers on mental health and violence. Swanson talked about the dangers of passing laws in the wake of tragedy ― and which new violence-prevention strategies might actually work. Continue reading »