Support American RadioWorks with your Amazon.com purchases
Search Amazon.com:
Keywords:
  • News/Talk
  • Music
  • Entertainment
Jails: America's Mental HospitalsPhoto essayIn Jail or in TreatmentPollStatisticsResources
     
   
Listen | How to listen
 
Getting 62 Years | A Good Boy Turned Sick? | The Hinckley Factor | Not Crazy Enough
"A very serious mistake" | Conclusion
   


Lawyers close to Zwack's case and independent legal experts agree on this: no judge would have sent Kyle Zwack back to the streets if he'd been found not guilty by reason of insanity. No judge anywhere, let alone in Texas.

"No way," says defense attorney Ackerman.

Goldstein points to surveys showing many Americans think violent criminals found not- guilty-by-reason-of-insanity are simply set free. But in fact, in most states they're automatically committed to hospitals.

And here, Ackerman argues, is where the law failed Kyle Zwack. The jury that convicted himójuror Roy Sandoval acknowledges thisódid not know the court had the power to commit Zwack indefinitely if he were declared insane. And they tried to find out. During deliberations the jurors sent a note to the judge, asking what would happen to Zwack if they acquitted him. By Texas lawóand it's a law common to many other statesóthe judge could not answer the question.

That, says Yale University law professor Abraham Goldstein, is "a very serious mistake."

Goldstein points to surveys showing many Americans think violent criminals found not- guilty-by-reason-of-insanity are simply set free. But in fact, in most states, they're automatically committed to hospitals. And they're confined there for about as longóand often longeró than those convicted of similar crimes and sent to prison, studies have found. By not correcting the misperception, Goldstein argues, courts leave juries almost no choice but to find dangerous defendants guilty, no matter how insane they may be.

What if Kyle Zwack's jury had known the real consequences of an acquittal? What if Roy Sandoval himself had known that a not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity verdict would not have set Kyle Zwack free but would have sent him to a mental hospital indefinitely? Could that conceivably have made a difference in his vote on Kyle's guilt or innocence?

"Well, yeah, it might have," Sandoval concedes. "It might have."

Then again, it might not have. Psychologist Jerome Brown says many jurors, and judges too, for that matter, can't get past a gut-level belief that criminals must be punished even if a mental disease made them do the crime.

"I've been involved with cases where six or seven mental health professionals got up and said 'This man is insane,' and the court would find him sane anyway," Brown says. "Even though he's wearing hats to keep the x-rays out of his brain and he thinks his dead wife that he just killed is still talking to him, and he's asking the deputies when they arrive if they could quiet her down. Really, really gross cases."

Next: Conclusion