Lorena Bobbitt: Insanity Defense Pioneer?

“Perhaps the most famous successful insanity defense related to domestic violence was that of Lorena Bobbitt, who was accused in 1993 of malicious wounding after she cut off her husband John Bobbitt’s penis with a carving knife. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity … “

October 28, 2019 |

MedPage Today | 

BALTIMORE — Many defenses have been used to explain why a particular court defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI), but some insanity defenses are more inventive than others, several speakers said here at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law.

Typically, said Meghan Musselman, MD, a forensic psychiatrist in Cleveland, insanity defenses are built around a few types of recognized psychiatric illness — “either a psychotic disorder, an affective disorder, or a cognitive disorder.”

But attorneys have mounted defenses on a variety of others, including conditions not defined in the DSM-5, she said. Killer Denied Mental Health Care “Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity”

One such defense involves parasomnia, or sleepwalking. Sleepwalking patients have eyes directed up and outward in a vacant expression.

“They appear to be awake … [but] if you speak with them, they tend not to respond,”Musselman said.

Sleepwalkers have no sensory perceptions — no sense of smell, taste, or — importantly — of pain. Once they are awakened, they have no memory of incidents that occurred while they were sleepwalking, and they have a period of confusion if they’re awoken during the episode.

One of the more famous sleepwalking cases was that in 1988 of Kenneth Parks, a Canadian man who killed his mother-in-law and tried to kill his father-in-law. Parks, who was married, had developed a gambling disorder and lost his job.

One night, Parks fell asleep while watching TV, and then — all in his sleep — drove for 14 hours to his in-laws’ house, got a tire iron, went into the house and strangled his father-in-law, who survived, and beat his mother-in-law to death with the tire iron.

Parks then drove to a police station and said, “I think I killed someone,” Musselman explained … Read more.