Published June 23, 2006
Should someone who is clearly mentally ill get out of serving jail time if they've committed a horrific crime? The capital murder retrial of Andrea Yates has ignited a national debate about the correct way to punish mentally ill criminals.
E-mail No. 1
The problem is that our system doesn't seem to know what to do with mental illness. In my opinion, there should not be an "innocent by reason of insanity" defense. There should be a "guilty" verdict with the "insanity" part coming in during sentencing. They should then "sentence" her to a mental institution — perhaps for life. Someone with mental illness who commits a crime should still be found guilty. To find them innocent is to do a grave injustice to the victims. However, they should receive the medical help required. And that should be an option of sentencing. They should pay for their crime while getting the help they need. This particular woman should always be under strict medical watch. Even if she takes her medicine and has periods of time when she is not psychotic, she has proven that she is a danger when her disease is not under control.
ANSWER: Wow! Boy did you get it right, I couldn't agree with you more.
During the 10 years I worked as a prosecutor, I always struggled with what to do with someone who was clearly mentally ill and committed a horrific crime. Where can you find justice, let alone solace, for the families of the victims? I think we need to update the existing laws to create uniformity across the states so that all people with mental illness who find themselves in the criminal justice system for committing horrific crimes will be treated exactly the same. It is necessary that the crimes they commit be acknowledged and properly handled by the state in which they offend. It is most important that there be justice for the victims and their families. However, as you pointed out, it is equally important that the mentally ill receive the psychological counseling and the medical treatment that they need at the facilities that are appropriate for the crimes they committed. It is imperative that the offenders not be released early without proper treatment, simply to offend again.
E-mail No. 2
I travel a lot and across this fine country. The big thing everywhere is, "Has Natalee's case gone cold?" People are devastated. Why has it been put in the background? Thank you for a
ANSWER: Dear G.P., It appears that the Natalee Holloway case is back in the front and center again. There are new details about an eyewitness to the disappearance and possible murder of Natalee Holloway. Aruban police have questioned a man who claims to have witnessed Natalee's rape and murder on a desolate beach. The witness is a forty-year-old Columbian construction worker who says he stayed silent until now because he is living in Aruba illegally and he feared deportation. This witness was turned over to prosecutors by former U.S. Secret Service agent Art Wood, who had interviewed him on the island in April after the witness had contacted Natalee's parents through an intermediary. It appears the Aruban prosecutors are still frantically trying to solve this case. We can only hope that maybe this time the new witness will lead to the justice we've all been waiting for in Natalie's case.
Watch Kimberly Guilfoyle on "The Lineup," weekends at 9 p.m. ET