There is a famous book called “Catch-22.” It is about a World War II American flier. He wants to get out of combat duty. He does this by claiming he not fit to fly because he is crazy. The doctor examines him and says, “Anyone who wants to get out of combat duty is not really crazy.” The doctor calls it catch-22. They make him fly again. See scenes from the movie.
Catch-22 goes the other way when it comes to mass murderers. Whenever a mass murderer goes on trial, the defense enters a claim of insanity. Some experts say that anyone who commits mass murder is insane. That definition treats all mass murderers as mentally ill. That hints that they can go free when they are “cured.”
Last week an ex-soldier killed five people in the baggage area of the Fort Lauderdale airport. He took out the gun he had stored in his luggage. He opened fire on people at random. When he ran out of bullets, he lay down on the floor and waited for the police to arrest him.
Reports of his mental problems are coming in. His state of mind is sure to be a defense plea.
This is a different case. The murderer defended himself. In 2015, a young white man shot and killed eight black Americans. They were at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. He says he is a white supremacist. He says it was necessary for him to kill them to stir up a race war. He says he is sane.
The jury on Tuesday agreed with him. The jury recommended the death penalty.
An expert said, “It is pretty hard to tell the difference between bad and mad, between evil and crazy.”
Some killers are suicidal, religious fanatics. Most die where they have carried out their murders. Can anyone be a suicide bomber and not be insane? That is the question.
People can get guns and open fire on innocents. They can steal or hijack big trucks and run them into crowds. At some time, courts and experts must decide. Will they let the acts speak for themselves (it was murder)? Or will they conclude that only crazy people do crazy things (they were insane)?
In current law, judges and juries decide these matters on a case-by-case basis.