Is there such a thing as "temporary insanity?"


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

Just 46 months ago in 2009, Guy Turcotte, a Canadian cardiologist, confessed to killing his children, 5-year-old Olivier and 3-year-old Anne-Sophie, as they slept in their beds.

The reason? Turcotte testified that he was "distraught "over his crumbling marriage and snapped, insisting he "blacked out" and "doesn't remember" killing his children.

A Canadian jury believed the testimony of two psychiatrists paid for by his defense. They testified that Turcotte could not have known what he was doing when he repeatedly stabbed his children.

Turcotte was placed under psychiatric care. Now, less than four years after the killing he is back on the street. In fact, Turcotte told the psychiatric review board that released him that he is looking forward to leading a normal life in the future and hopes to practice medicine and have children again.

There was no previous diagnosis of mental illness. Turcotte has never had any other psychiatric incident.

The question? Read the title of this string.

What is the purpose of laws?

If nothing else, it is to protect society. Does it make any sense to have laws saying that someone, who was normal up to that moment, should be excused for something that he does when he gets so angry that he let's himself go out of control?

Are you a little tired of laws that worry about the murderer instead of (a) The people he murdered? Or (b) The rest of us?


Pat Randall 3 years, 10 months ago

psychiratist now days don't want to do anything but give drugs, unless they have been practicing a long time. The man shoud be blacked out permanently.


Kim Chittick 3 years, 10 months ago

This man should have been put to death. Many people deal with "crumbling marriages" they don't all violently and heinously take the lives of their own children.

I don't believe in "temporary insanity". Rage induced violence? Sure. Economically motivated murder? Yep. Temporary insanity? A prosecuting attorney's buzz word.


Bernice Winandy 3 years, 10 months ago

I believe that you can become so angry that you can lose control. As the mother of three children each one year apart, there were times when I became so frustrated, angry, confused that I knew I had to leave the room, take a deep breath and possibly have a cup of coffee and return to the "scene" later.

However, in the case of this man, I simply can't believe it was temporary insanity. The children were sleeping, not yelling, jumping, running around, disobeying and/or creating a mess, etc. As a physician, he probably knew enough to fake it.

He should not be allowed to practice medicine again, but I guess there is no way of preventing him from returning. Although maybe one could argue that the pressure of practicing medicine, perhaps another failing marriage and more children could lead to another break down. FAT CHANCE!

On another note, who wouldn't want to forget killing their children?

In other words, I don't believe him.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

"However, in the case of this man, I simply can't believe it was temporary insanity. The children were sleeping, not yelling, jumping, running around, disobeying and/or creating a mess, etc."

The man stabbed his little daughter 18 times. None of the wounds was that "fatal" wound. The child apparently bled to death. And he didn't attack the children for something they were doing; he attacked them because his wife couldn't stand him anymore and wanted out of an unhappy marriage.

The folks up in Canada, so the reports say, are "outraged" that he is being released, but they brought in one themselves with laws that are the namby-pamby laws of the universe. I have been told, but have never taken the time to verify it, that if you use a gun to defend yourself from an attack, regardless of the weapon being used against you in the attack--for example an axe--you are in bigger trouble than the attacker. As I have been told, you cannot defend yourself against an attack with a gun, no matter what.

They have other laws like that, many of them.

For example, whole boatloads of Chinese wanting to enter the U. S. illegally land in Canada. The Canadians, instead of arresting them and sending them back, bring them in, tell them they have to come back for a hearing, and let them go. When they don't show up (because they are now here) they just don't worry about it.

"In other words, I don't believe him."

Smart lady! Our north of the border neighbors did, though.

Here's the thing about this kind of case. If someone is clearly insane before he commits a crime, that is to say, his brain doesn't function normally, then he should be in an asylum. If someone is not insane, there is no way that he can become insane. He can get very angry. He can act out his anger. He can do all sorts of things, but we need a blanket law that disallows such a plea. It is clearly a travesty on justice to say that those who do not control their anger, allowing themselves to do things that should not be done, should be excused for it. We are responsible for what we do, and letting yourself fly off the handle in a way that can harm someone else is not an excuse for amnesty; it's a reason for a more severe sentence.


Bernice Winandy 3 years, 10 months ago

I have heard Canadian citizens complain about the Chinese problem.


Bernice Winandy 3 years, 10 months ago

Talking about kid messes reminds of one my middle daughter created. We had just finished breakfast, and the kids were watching Captain Kangaroo. I decided to go downstairs, take the clothes out of the dryer and put a new load in the washing machine (probably diapers). Anyway when I got back upstairs, I found that said daughter had pushed a chair over to the kitchen counter and had gotten into a jar of strawberry jam that I had failed to put away. She was covered in jam up to her elblows, the kitchen counter well, the less said the better, the same for the kitchen floor. I could have screamed, however, she looked so darn cute with jam spread from ear to ear that I just had to smile, and she smiled at me. Told my son to stay out of the kitchen and holding her at arm's length took her into the bathroom. After a bathing her I cleaned up the kitchen. Luckily, my son obeyed and stayed out of the kitchen!


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

"I could have screamed, however, she looked so darn cute with jam spread from ear to ear that I just had to smile, and she smiled at me."

Two comments:

One. Hi, Mom. :-)

Two. It always looks so funny in the movies, doesn't it?

Kid stories. I'll bet everyone has a least a couple of good ones.


Dan Haapala 3 years, 10 months ago

Self defense, If I don't kill you, you will kill me or mine, Is the only justifiable form of murder on this planet.Governments declare War but the premis is supposed to be the same. In every other instance of death the rule is simple.....Take a life, Lose your life. How hard is that to understand.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

Thanks, Dan.

That is my exact opinion. If someone deliberately kills another person he or she has forfeited the right to live. Unless we hold that line we will always see people who will act out their anger, or who will kill to avoid being caught during some offense, or who will kill for profit or revenge.

As for those who claim that it is not an effective deterrent, let me point out that it deters the murderer who is no longer around to do it again. And having had one close experience with that, that alone reason is good enough for me.

Justice is justice.

Two other things just occurred to me as I posted this, so this is an addition.

One, if I killed someone I would expect to die for it.

Two, consider how many murder-suicides there are; that seems to say that when other people kill someone, many of them feel the same way about it as I would.


Ronald Hamric 3 years, 10 months ago

Tom, To the point about the "temporary insanity" defense. Neuero studies are gradually unlocking some of the mysteries of the human brain. As we've discussed on other threads, technology is causing the re-examination of what were once percieved and accepted as "fact" at a rapid pace. I have read a bit on the "sub-consicious" mind. That's the part of the the brain that mimics, if you will, a computer hard drive. Everything that you have ever thought or experienced is stored in there whether you ever use it again, are aware of it's presence, or even remember putting it in there in the first place. You may think you erased it from the hard drive, but it really is always there and recoverable. An example I once read of, is using an hypothetical argument between a husband and wife. The wife either does something or says something that makes the husband real angry. He might think to himself, not out loud, "if she doesn't stop that, I'm going to kill her". But soon he "counts to ten" and the moment passes without incident. But now, stored in his sub-conscious is his pre-determined response to such a set of circumstances. He's moved on and forgets about it. But at some time later, the wife does the same or something very similar, that brought about his original thoughts about killing her, and his sub-consicious takes over present rational thought , and he responds based upon his stored reactive impulses. Lawyers using such information, will plead that the man really "was not in his right mind" at the moment he killed his wife. He was simply responding to a previously "archived" impulse that he wasn't even aware existed any longer. Not sure I am completely onboard with such a defence, but then there is so much I don't know about nuerology and the human brain, that I would be hard pressed to counter the "experts" positions on such matters.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

Interesting. I used to know quite a bit about such stuff, but am no longer up to date. Will have to go out and do some research one of these days.


Tom Garrett 3 years, 10 months ago

I just realized that there is something to temporary insanity.

Any juror who would buy into it is sanitarily tempored.


Pat Randall 3 years, 10 months ago

Temporary insanity is every time I try to use a computer.


ALLAN SIMS 3 years, 10 months ago

Regarding comments on “the rule is simple.....Take a life, Lose your life. How hard is that to understand.” That was my motto. The only way to combat murder is to murder the murderer. And, I fervently espoused that theme.

But, I remember a case over in Texas in the 1990’s, a woman who, at 25, participated in a horrible set of crimes, while under the influence of drugs. She later became a devout Christian and pleaded, not for release, but simply commutation of the sentence to life; so that she could witness to other prisoners to win them to Christ, before they were executed.

Governor George Bush refused to pardon her (In Texas that could only result in a few weeks stay of execution, until further review could be completed.) and she was executed by lethal injection. The first woman executed in Texas since 1863.

You might remember the case. She actually (As a convicted murderer) was transported to CNN headquarters where she was interviewed on the Larry King Live show.

I was going to school near there at the time, and had (Earlier) actually worked at the facility she had been housed in, while on death row. I was struck by the humility of this woman who wanted nothing more than to stay in prison and witness to the lost to save their eternal souls.

That was one case where I was sure the ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth’ analogy was wrong. Since that time, while continuing to support capital punishment, I have been careful to not proclaim who should and should not die, from my own point of view.


Kim Chittick 3 years, 10 months ago

Mr. Sims, there is a saying, "sometime you have to hit bottom before you can see the light". I would say that being on death row in prison is about as "bottom" as one can get. Would this woman have found God and chosen to serve Him and witness to others, were she not at about the lowest point that a human being can be? Of course, the answer to that question is something that we will never know.

What we do know is that she chose to be under the influence of drugs, and while under the influence, as you state, she participated in the commission of "a horrible set of crimes". I assume that murder was a part of this "horrible set of crimes", as typically the death penalty is not meted out except for murder. The person or persons that she perpetrated these crimes against can never get their lives back. Another hypothetical question...what if one of those persons was destined to be a great spiritual leader, whose life was cut short by the drug induced behavior of this woman?

While I have great respect and admiration for jailhouse ministries and believe that once one has been washed in the blood of Jesus, all their sins are washed clean; that still does not negate their earthly crimes, nor does, or should it, grant them clemency or commutation from earthly punishment. For goodness' sake, if it did, we would have all sorts of prisoners claiming to have found Jesus and asking for clemency or commutation.

I am a firm advocate for the philosophy, "we all make choices in life". Every second of every minute of every day of our life, we are making choices. Good, bad or indifferent, we all make them. There are no "do overs" in life, once a moment is gone, it is gone. We can improve on an action, and we can ask forgiveness for an action, however, we cannot negate the action.

The woman you spoke of committed a "horrible set of crimes". She was tried and found guilty; and was sentenced to death. That was justice.


ALLAN SIMS 3 years, 9 months ago

Yes, it was Justice, and she never asked for a rescinding of her punishment, merely that she might live for Christ.

There are descriptions of her "horrible crimes" on the internet, but I'll not expose them here. Suffice to say they were horrible. What won the hearts of the nation at large was her humility, ready acceptance that her crimes required punishment and the fact that the brother of one of the most mutilated victims was won to her side. He was a sibling who at first wanted only her death. But, as he became a believer himself, he became an ardent proponent of commuting her death sentence to that of life without parole.

Governor G. Bush received stinging rebukes for his failure to grant even a temporary pardon (For the national mood was for clemency); and I have to say it was with tears in his eyes that he publically announced he could not do it.

Christians all over the world, notably the Pope for one, became one of her supporters. Of course he was against capital punishment, but he also had a personal interest in her humble expressions of acceptance of her fate and her fervent desire to live for Christ.

She died expressing love and friendship to the families of those who died, and to her husband whom she met on death row. (He had been her prison minister) Throughout her appeals, she never once demanded, or begged, merely expressing the desire to serve.

I am aware of good people who do horrible things, and horrible people who turn out better, because of Christ. I fall in that latter category myself.

I, in no way, wish to change anyone’s mind about capital punishment; but merely want to point out that everything is not simply black and white. There are shades of gray, and I know from prior experience that forgiveness is good for the soul.

No, she should not have walked, and perhaps the execution was the right thing. After all, we are having this discussion because of her faith.

Happy New Year


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