Everyone has felt the urge to kill. Most people don't kill. Some people do. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, a psychiatrist and an internationally recognized expert on violence, has spent the last quarter century studying the differences between those who do and those who don't. Among the murderers she has examined are the notorious killers Ted Bundy, Arthur Shawcross, and Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon. Now, she shares her groundbreaking discoveries--and the chilling encounters that led to them.
Guilty by Reason of Insanity is the gripping, brilliantly written true story of Dr. Lewis's search to understand those who kill. The unforgettable cases revealed here clearly illustrate how the disparate elements of brain damage, paranoia, and family brutality combine to create a killer.
It starts at a juvenile court in New Haven. A thirteen-year-old girl--out of the blue, in broad daylight--has stabbed her best friend to death before an audience of gaping classmates. Dr. Lewis convinces her colleague, the eminent neurologist Jonathan Pincus, to help her figure out why. Thus begins a collaboration that continues to this day.
The passion to understand the underpinnings of violence draws the Lewis-Pincus team to the psychiatric and forensic wards of New York City's Bellevue Hospital, and then to prisons around the country--eventually leading to the corridors of death row and to an infamous gallery of condemned killers.
There we meet a thirty-six-year-old woman who forms a sexual attachment to a fourteen-year-old boy. Together, they kidnap, torture, and ultimately murder a teenaged girl. Suddenly, in the midst of the interview with the doe-eyed, soft-spoken murderess, a menacing, male persona appears and Dr. Lewis finds herself face-to-face with her first case of multiple personality disorder, a condition she never before believed existed.
We sit in on the psychiatric evaluation of a condemned boy who, at seventeen, raped and murdered a seventy-six-year-old nun. Only after his death does Dr. Lewis discover the grotesque secrets of his childhood that finally explain his murderous rage and his bizarre choice of victim.
Powerful, controversial, and utterly absorbing--including an intense final interview with an executioner--Guilty by Reason of Insanity is a tour de force, a compelling odyssey of one extraordinary psychiatrist striking a delicate balance between emotion and objectivity. It will forever change the way you think about crime, punishment, and the law itself.
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"We met no Jimmy Cagneys or Robert Mitchums among the inmates in the prisons we visited. We found ourselves, rather, in the company of a pathetic crew of intellectually limited, dysfunctional, half-mad, occasionally explosive losers. Long before these men wound up on death row, their similarly limited, primitive, impulsive parents had raised them in the only fashion they knew.... These brutish parents had set the stage on which our condemned subjects now found themselves playing out the final act. It was a drama generations in the making."
Psychiatrist Dorothy Otnow Lewis, working in a professional partnership with neurologist Jonathan Pincus, has been steadily accumulating and publishing (in medical journals) evidence that almost all vicious criminals have some combination of (1) a childhood of abuse and/or neglect, (2) brain injuries through accident or abuse, and (3) psychotic symptoms, especially paranoia. This fascinating and well-written book, aimed at a wide audience, takes the form of a memoir in which Lewis tells us about the events that led her to study violent patients and about some of her more interesting cases, especially those on death row. Far from being another shallow "oh wow" book about conversations with horrifying killers, this is a thoughtful, humane examination of the horrible experiences that most murderers have endured, and a penetrating analysis of how subtle signs of brain damage in these people have been missed by other researchers. Lewis has an engagingly humble and personal way of writing about her experiences, which makes her findings all the more credible. --Fiona WebsterFrom the Back Cover:
The New York Times
"RIVETING . . . POWERFUL . . . READS LIKE A TOP-DRAWER SUSPENSE THRILLER."
--New York Post
"A REFRESHING AND COMPELLING LOOK AT THE WORKINGS OF THE CRIMINAL MIND."
"SPELLBINDING . . . A VOYAGE OF DISCOVERY."
--SHERWIN B. NULAND, M.D.
--The Boston Globe
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Book Description Arrow Books Ltd, 1999. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110099406349