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I'm a Sociology Professor at the University of Toronto. I write about gun violence, health disparities, and Hip Hop culture. When I'm not doing research, I like pop-locking, swimming, and learning Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. This is my first blog. I hope you like it.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Who's crazy?

I woke up this morning and found out that Jared Loughner--the man who killed 6 people and wounded 13 others during a mass shooting in Tucson, AZ--has been deemed by psychiatrists and psychologists to be "unfit" to stand trial.  A BBC report claims that Loughner had outbursts during preliminary hearings and is now undergoing additional evaluations to see if he will ever be able to stand trial. 

All of this made me reflect on the case of Aileen Wuornos, dubbed by the media as "America's first female serial killer."   In David Broomfield's documentary, "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer," we learn that Aileen underwent the same kinds of psych evaluations and was deemed competent enough to stand trial, and ultimately to be put to death.  In fact, Broomfield tells us that Aileen underwent a very brief, 15-minute psych evaluation the day before she was executed.  This happened around the same time when she was developing elaborate conspiracy theories about how the police allowed her to continue murdering in order to sell the rights to movies, books, and other entertainment.  At one point, she tells Broomfield that she thinks the mirror in her prison cell is wired.  If you're interested, here is some creepy footage of Aileen's final interview.

These two cases make me wonder how the criminal justice system processes different folks who kill.  Namely, how does the criminal justice system determine when someone is or someone isn't fit to stand trial?  Does the type of murder shape how the criminal justice system evaluates a person's mental health?

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