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Can mental disorders be part of a murder defense?

On Behalf of | Jul 5, 2022 | Murder/Homicide

The question of whether or not someone is responsible for their actions if they have a mental illness is a complex one with no easy answer. 

In this blog post, we will discuss how various mental disorders can be used as part of a defense to murder charges. 

The impact of mental illness on a defendant’s state of mind

Mental illness can profoundly impact a person’s ability to understand the consequences of their actions or control their behavior. It can cause a person to act impulsively or irrationally without regard for the potential consequences. 

As a result, it can increase the risk of accidents, injuries, and self-harm and can even lead to violence, especially when combined with substance abuse.

Many mental disorders could potentially be used as part of a defense to murder charges, such as:  

  • Individuals with paranoid delusions may believe they are being persecuted, which can lead to violent behavior toward their perceived persecutors.
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be caused by exposure to traumatic events and can lead to flashbacks, nightmares and hypervigilance. Individuals with PTSD may also suffer from impulsivity and irritability, increasing the risk of violence under stress.
  • Schizophrenia has been used as a defense in multiple murder cases because it can impair a person’s ability to tell reality from hallucination.

CTE is a degenerative brain disease that comes from repeated brain trauma. The brain makes various neuropathological changes which lead to behavioral changes in the form of aggression. 

The idea that mental disorders can lead someone to commit murder is not a new concept, but it is being used more often as a part of defense strategies as we better understand how the brain works.

Each situation is different and must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. In some cases, using a mental disorder as a murder defense may be the best option for the defendant. Experienced legal guidance can help you learn more.