- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 31, 2001

The insanity defense, as it is known in popular jargon, is not looked upon favorably by most because it has become a caricature. The idea of allowing a legal "out" for a stone-cold killer who probably knew precisely what he was doing as in the infamous "Twinkie defense" used by the murderer of a homosexual San Francisco politician in the 1970s rightly offends our sense of justice.

However, in the case of Russell Weston the paranoid schizophrenic who shot up the Capitol three years ago, killing two police officers in the process justice would not appear to be served by the current legal wrangling involving his mental state.

Federal authorities, while conceding that Mr. Weston is severely mentally ill, want to force his treatment with anti-psychotic drugs, to restore his sanity, as such, merely to render him sufficiently competent to stand trail and perhaps be executed for his actions. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that Mr. Weston could indeed be so medicated and implicitly endorsed the idea that he could be rendered just sane enough to be put to death for crimes he may have no awareness of having committed.

The question, though, is whether it serves justice to treat a man such as Mr. Weston whom all parties agree isn't "faking it," as some killers undoubtedly have not to make him better, but only to make it possible to punish him for actions he committed while in a delusional state.

Certainly, Mr. Weston should not be walking the streets. He also should be medicated but not forcibly and certainly not solely in order to be propped up before a judge and jury. The object should be to protect Mr. Weston from himself and society from Mr. Weston. In all likelihood, he will spend the rest of his life in a mental institution like John Hinckley, the attempted assassin of Ronald Reagan. Indeed, remanding him to the probably permanent custody of a mental hospital, where he will be both treated and kept apart from those whom he might harm, seems the sensible and just course to take.

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