Monday, June 23, 2008

Bipolar Disorder as a Criminal Defense

In the wake of Edward Renehan's attempted use of his bipolar disorder as a defense for stealing multiple items at multiple times from the collections of the Theodore Roosevelt Association, the New York Sun's Jay Akasie examines the issues surrounding this particular legal strategy. He quotes defense attorney Murray Richman: "Using bipolar disorder as a defense in a case is just not viable. It's absolutely not a defense — it's an excuse. It has nothing to do with a person's ability to know right from wrong."

Other lawyers told Akasie that "bipolar disorder can have so-called jury appeal if the sufferer has a long and well-documented history of aberrant behavior coupled with requests for institutional help," and that documented cases of bipolar disorder can be used to achieve more favorable plea deals. Most often, however, because bipolar disorder primarily "affects mood rather than cognition," it is not considered a valid insanity defense.