Calling Thomas Szasz


Usually, when the chief suspect in an attempted homicide says things like "I stabbed her," her case is as good as dead. But a District Court judge in Montana has just thrown out several such damning statements, on the grounds that the stabber made them after requesting her lawyer but without said lawyer's presence.

An unpleasant but necessary decision protecting a suspect's civil liberties? Well, no: Police had clearly informed her of her Miranda rights, and the woman by all appearances made her subsequent statements without any prompting from the cops.

So what was the problem? Turns out the suspect has "multiple personality disorder." Her lawyer argued that "It is inconceivable that one personality could relinquish the right to have an attorney present before questioning to the detriment of other personalities," and the judge bought it.

This may be a first. Courts have long allowed criminals to excuse their behavior on the grounds that they are insane. But how many have issued rulings that only make sense if the criminal's delusions are literally true?