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NCJ Number: 67098 Find in a Library
Title: CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY - AN ACTION LANGUAGE APPROACH
Journal: PSYCHIATRY  Volume:42  Dated:(MAY 1979)  Pages:121-130
Author(s): G H MILLER
Corporate Author: William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation
United States of America
Date Published: 1979
Page Count: 10
Sponsoring Agency: William Alanson White Psychiatric Foundation
Washington, DC 20009
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: THIS ARTICLE STATES THAT THE USE OF ACTION LANGUAGE IN COURTROOM TESTIMONY ENCOURAGES SIMPLICITY AND CLARITY, AND OBVIATES THE INCOMPATIBILITY BETWEEN PSYCHIATRIC AND LEGAL STATEMENTS ABOUT CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY.
Abstract: TRADITIONALLY, THE PROPOSITIONS OF PSYCHIATRY ARE SAID TO BE IN CONFLICT WITH THOSE OF THE LAW, SINCE PSYCHIATRY ASSUMES A 'PSYCHIC DETERMINISM' AND THE LAW ASSUMES FREEDOM OF THE WILL. AN ARGUMENT ALWAYS ARISES OVER THE INSANITY DEFENSE SINCE IT BRIDGES PSYCHIATRY AND THE LAW. AN 'ACTION MODEL' IS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THE USUAL CAUSUALLY STATED PROPOSITIONS OF THE INSANITY DEFENSE (THAT IS, THE PERSONS'S MENTAL ILLNESS CAUSED A CRIMINAL ACTION AND AFFLICTED THE PERSON'S WILL). THE ACTION MODEL PROPOSES THAT ANY PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS SHOULD BE CALLED ACTION. IN APPLYING THIS TO THE INSANITY DEFENSE, PSYCHIATRIC EXPERTS WOULD SAY THAT THERE ARE NO PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESSES THAT PRODUCE OR RESULT IN CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR; FOR EXAMPLE, A MURDER WOULD NOT BE SAID TO BE THE RESULT OF A DELUSION OR THE PRODUCT OF A SUBSTANTIAL MENTAL ILLNESS. IN AN ACTION MODEL, THERE IS NO DISEASE PRODUCING CRIMINAL ACTS, OR IN BROADER TERMS, NO MENTAL PROCESSES CAUSING PHYSICAL PROCESSES. THUS, IN THE ACTION MODEL, THE LANGUAGE USED TO DESCRIBE CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY HAS THE COURTROOM ADVANTAGE OF BEING FREE OF TECHNICAL TERMS AND IS UNDERSTANDABLE TO BOTH DOCTORS AND LAWYERS. RATHER THAN USING A DISEASE MODEL WITH ALL ITS RAMIFICATIONS, ACTION-MODEL LANGUAGE ONLY DESCRIBES DIFFERENT ACTIONS. THE PROBLEM OF FREE WILL IS AVOIDED ALSO. THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EXPERT ASSESSES HOW THE ACCUSED DID WHAT HE OR SHE DID AT THE TIME OF THE CRIME, LOOKS TO HIS OR HER EXPLANATIONS AND REASONS THE PERSON GIVES FOR THE ACT, AND EXAMINES THESE IN TERMS OF THE PERSON'S PAST HISTORY. ACTION LANGUAGE BRINGS INTO FOCUS THE FACT THAT CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY IS A LEGAL CONVENTION, NOT A CHARACTER TRAIT. THE LAW ESTABLISHES WHICH PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESSES ARE EXCUSABLE AND WHICH ARE NOT. IN AN ACTION APPROACH, CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY IS UNDERSTOOD IN TERMS OF HOW THE ACTION WAS DONE IN RELATION TO SOME REQUIREMENT OF LAW. FINALLY, CHANGES IN PSYCHOLOGICAL THINKING SUGGEST AREAS OF CHANGE IN LEGAL THINKING, SINCE THE LAW SHOULD BE RESPONSIVE TO DEVELOPMENTS IN PSYCHOLOGY. REFERENCES AND FOOTNOTES ARE PROVIDED. (PRG)
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Expert witnesses; Insanity defense; Psychiatry; Testimony
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http://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=67098

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