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Lawyers, Psychiatrists and Criminal Law - Cooperation or Chaos?

NCJ Number
H M Huckabee
Date Published
209 pages
Focusing on the problems of criminal responsibility and competency to stand trial, this book surveys the deteriorating relationship between criminal law and psychiatry over the past 25 years.
The first of two main sections explores criminal responsibility and the controversy generated by that topic among professionals with different orientations to criminal law. Among the areas reviewed are responsibility tests; evidence of mental disorder on mens rea (the mental state required for the offense); various proposals to substitute mens rea for traditional responsibility tests; and the current chaos and need for cooperation among psychiatrists and lawyers. It is suggested that the greater cooperation required could be accomplished by establishing a research and clearinghouse program sponsored by the National Institute of Justice; such a program would coordinate efforts to solve problems at both the Federal and State levels. The second section evaluates such issues as competency to stand trial, the debate on psychiatrists' expertise in matters of criminal law, the briefing of psychiatrists, the choosing of psychiatrists, and the use of impartial experts and court clinics. It is recommended that court clinics, composed of psychiatrists and other professionals who give advice to trial courts on medical issues, be established; that standards and guidelines be tightened; and that the prosecution and defense be given full opportunity to retain their own psychiatrists. Citations from books, articles, court opinions, trial transcripts, legislative proposals, hearings, and reports are given to help criminal justice and mental health personnel understand the law-psychiatry interface and the need for cooperation between the two professions. A name and subject index and chapter references are included. (Author abstract modified)