Recently, the head prosecutor in Maricopa County said that he was open to negotiating a deal in the Jodi Arias case. He would consider taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for life without parole. Whether or not a deal is struck, depends at least in part, upon how the victims’ family wants to proceed. Clancy Talbott, speaking on behalf of the Alexander family, told Shepard Smith of Fox news that they want to see Jodi Arias on death row. If there is no deal, a new jury will be convened this summer to decide her fate.
I’ve recently visited a website where they were debating whether or not Jodi Arias should get the death penalty. It was roughly a 60/40 split, the majority being for the death penalty. Those against the death penalty voiced legitimate reasons for their opposition. They included the death penalty being more expensive than life in prison, being uncomfortable with the government imposing death on its citizens, and the fact that the United States is the only industrialized country in the world that still employs the death penalty, among others.
Less defendable arguments were also expressed. Some commenters believed that Jodi had schizophrenia. They reasoned that such a heinous crime could only have been committed by someone who was “crazy.” Another person thought that the media made her look like a psychopath simply to “make more money for their TV shows.” Since Jodi “never showed an ounce of anger throughout the trial” she must have schizophrenia.
People are often confused about schizophrenia. When someone commits a heinous, brutal crime, it is often assumed that they must have done so because they were “crazy” but there’s a big difference between being crazy and committing a crime that people would describe as “crazy.”
Jeffrey Dahmer committed a brutal and heinous crime but was not crazy. He killed his victims and ate their flesh. Dr. Michael Stone, who ranks killers on a scale of evil, considers Jeffrey Dahmer to be the worst of the worst, the most evil. Many people thought Jeffrey was crazy. Jeffrey admitted that his actions were wrong and apologized. Psychiatric evaluations supported his sanity claim, yet many people continued to say Jeffrey Dahmer was crazy. Why? Because in the their minds and the minds of many others anyone who murders and eats the flesh of their victims has to be “crazy” and by extension has schizophrenia. That’s not schizophrenia, folks.
People who commit heinous, brutal crimes can be frighteningly sane. Jeffrey Dahmer is all the proof you need.
People with schizophrenia are mostly nonviolent. When they do engage in violence it’s typically because they are reacting to severe, untreated delusions and hallucinations. They can see imaginary people. They can hear people talking to them who aren’t there. Sometimes they describe these people as being “other worldly beings” or “demons.” Sometimes, Satan himself. They can lay in bed at night and “hear” their mother and sister talking about killing them, even though the plotters are in a house five miles away.
Though they have lost touch with reality, they don’t lose their morality. They don’t even temporarily lose their morality. They know killing is wrong. They believe killing is wrong. They kill only to defend themselves or the ones they love, from death or something even worse, maybe the devil.
Andrea Yates was a schizophrenic woman who drowned her children to save them from Satan. She believed her children were selected by Satan because of her own personal weaknesses. Satan was coming to take the souls of her children to eternal damnation. The only way to save her children was to send them to God before Satan came for them. They would be safe with God.
The prosecution in every case wants a conviction. The prosecution hired a psychiatrist to evaluate Andrea. The prosecution’s psychiatrist diagnosed her as having severe schizophrenia. Both the prosecution and the defense agreed that Andrea was clearly mentally ill. Beginning with her first pregnancy, she has had a long documented history of hallucinations religious obsessions, intrusive thoughts, self-mutilation, catatonia, psychiatric hospitalizations, and suicide attempts. Immediately after drowning her children she called 911 and confessed. She requested to die by execution because it was the “only way to rescue her from the evil inside her.”
Diana Dial is another example. She shot and killed her roommate because she staunchly believed that he was going to poison her and the rest of her family. She believed that shooting him was necessary to protect her family from being killed. At trial, Diana adamantly denied a schizophrenia diagnosis despite clear evidence that she was very sick. Using schizophrenia as part of her defense could’ve helped her at trial but she refused to believe she was sick and even threatened to fire her lawyer for presenting supporting evidence. She was ultimately sentenced to life in prison.
I am not defending the actions of Andrea Yates or Diana Dial. I’m just telling you what’s going on inside their heads. Jodi, is not and has never been delusional.
I have studied schizophrenia and have worked with people with schizophrenia for many years and there is not a shred of evidence that Jodi Arias has schizophrenia. No mental health professional involved in the case had diagnosed her with schizophrenia. Nor did any media psychologist.
Sane people are capable of horrendous acts of evil. People with antisocial personalities, kill their victims and go on with their day as though nothing ever happened. That is precisely what Jodi Arias did. She killed Travis and then spent the next day with Ryan Burns, kindling the flames of a budding new romance. Even her own mother wondered how Jodi could kill Travis and simply return to business as usual.
Jodi’s barbaric actions might be “crazy” by society’s standards, but she is quite sane.
The other non-defendable theme among those against the death penalty for Jodi Arias, is that we should spare her life because she is not a serial killer. We heard that logic from William Zervakos, the Jodi Arias jury foreman, who argued that the judicial system is flawed because “this was not a case of Jeffrey Dahmer or Charles Manson.”
In the minds of some, the death penalty is apparently reserved for those who kill multiple people, just one doesn’t count. However, that’s not what the law says. The law states that killing one person makes you death-penalty eligible (in states that have the death penalty). The law does not state that you have to kill multiple people to be eligible for the death penalty. Anyone who believes that Jodi Arias should be spared the death penalty because she did not kill multiple people is misinterpreting the law. That would also include William Zervakos whose statement about Jeffrey Dahmer and Charles Manson suggests that he was misinterpreting the law.
There are valid arguments for and against the death penalty but there are also invalid arguments that are simply wrong.
Of course we should have empathy for individuals who are mentally ill, especially for those who have schizophrenia. Schizophrenia is a devastating, chronic illness and at least half of its’ sufferers can’t recognize they’re ill, due to a neurological condition called anosognosia. People with schizophrenia are not in denial or simply refusing to believe they are ill just to be “difficult.”
Much like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, the cruelty of the disease is that it renders them unaware of their own illness. The 8th amendment of the constitution protects these individuals from facing death.
Jodi Arias does not have schizophrenia. The undeniable truth is that Jodi Arias is sane. She committed a brutal act of murder. She has been convicted of premeditated, first degree murder and that more than qualifiers her for the death penalty.