When Mental Illness Intersects with Murder

Mental illness, murder, Shattered LIves Radio, Donna R. Gore


The “Bible of Psychiatry,” the DSM – V version which first appeared in May 2013, includes four new diagnostically recognized disorders that can “stand alone”-Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder; Hoarding Disorder; Binge Eating Disorder and Excoriation Disorder (Individuals who compulsively pick their skin for no apparent reason). They also acknowledge that they were wrong in excluding bereavement as potentially leading to major depression.   They say…

“This change acknowledges the fact that bereavement and Major Depression are not always entirely separate. Grief following a loss is a significant psychological stressor and may trigger a major depressive episode in some individuals.”

Well, Duh!!! Have any of these experts ever talked to real life homicide survivors??  I guess that makes them culpable – legally speaking. 

Definition of Culpable (findlaw.com)

culpable adj   deserving condemnation or blame as wrong or harmful
cul·pa·bil·i·ty [kəl-pə-bi-lə-tē  

No one can solve the ills of the world alone…. Although many conversations are taking place within clinical, governmental, educational and social service  settings about the escalation of violence in our society, you can bet that the “cocktail party set“ has not chosen to discuss the hard core issues of mental illness as it relates to murder.  Mental illness is an enigma to the layperson, and frequently gets all mixed up with personality disorders and courtroom jargon like some “psychological soup.” 

However, the hosts of “Shattered Lives” radio frequently pick “the road less chosen” for topics of discussion. It should be said that the following show was only a beginning- certainly not the end – of what will likely be one of the great debates of all time with its many permutations. 

Life can dish out the most painful, horrendous of circumstances imaginable. God tries to show us the road map throughout, whether we recognize it or not. However, in between, there are those individuals who help us light the way using their skills and compassion.  Guests Jennifer Bishop–Jenkins and Duane Bowers are two such people.  We invite you to listen to the podcast and read the highlights.


  • Introduction to our Guests;
  • Definition of Mental Illness from the Mayo Clinic
  • At work and home and in relationships…and NAMI (www.NAMI.org)  
  • Re Jennifer’s daughter’s case – Mental illness is a biological brain disorder focused in the neurotransmitters …. Years of history to come to a correct diagnosis
  • Duane – “not every mental health diagnosis has been proven yet to be biologically based “
  • The broad scope of mental health…
  • Ladyjustice asks, how do we differentiate sociopathy from mental illness?
  • Jennifer recounts the story and diagnosis of the perpetrator in the murder of her family members
  • What is social pathology and does it come with mental illness?
  • Jennifer discusses the increase in good diagnostic tools-   Depravity Scale and  Psychological tools   by  Dr. Robert Hare
  • “Without Conscience” Website: http://www.hare.org/scales/
  • If they are mentally ill… Should they be punished? The core issues according to Jennifer –  Culpability, consequences, accountability, responsibility and PREVENTION
  • Discussion about “guilty but insane” pleas in this country
  • Delilah asks about the difference in terms: mental Illness versus insanity- Duane responds
  • “Not guilty due to mental illness” versus “insane”
  • Jennifer on “Guilty but mentally ill as an option;   Guilt or innocence is a different  a different legal question 
  • At sentencing the culpability comes to play
  • Ladyjustice’s opinion on crime and punishment with the mentally ill  
  • No” broad brushing”…   We have to decide on a case by case basis 
  • A discussion of what demonstrated culpability can look like….
  • Duane raises the real issue of the long history of mental illness –   How did they get to this point? Why was it not recognized earlier; Where did the system break down? 
  • http://www.cbsnews.com/news/warning-signs-ignored-in-va-tech-shooting/
  • http://blogs.denverpost.com/eletters/2013/09/19/warning-signs-ignored-before-washington-navy-yard-shooting-3-letters/25434/
  • Jennifer on the  de-institutionalization of the mentally ill  in the community “with resources” – the outcome 
  • Another side to the de-institutionalization according to Duane…  Creation of a very large homeless population 
  • Ladyjustice brings up new mental health resources available to the Newtown schools by President Obama
  • Jennifer discusses the lack of supervision of her family’s perpetrator and Adam Lanza and the access to guns in US as compared to other countries
  • Jennifer talks about living with a mentally ill person in the household  and going through the stages of grief during this ordeal
  • “Police knowing the difference between taking her to the hospital versus taking her to jail…”  A hands on commitment
  • Delilah discusses the importance of being proactive versus reactive 
  • Isolation and withdrawal…
  • Duane differences the “average mass killer” and those who seeks a target”
  • “Making a point” and killing whoever is convenient 
  • Gabrielle Giffords  shooter makes the point …
  • https://donnagore.com/2014/01/07/gabby-the-wonder-of-gabrielle-giffords/
  • It’s a matter of “I’m trying to be heard” and “How many I’m shooting…”                              
  • There is a Difference in the goal 
  • Martyrdom , vigilantism and computer content 
  • How can we justify assault rifles?
  • Ladyjustice brings up the case of Miriam Carey http://www.cnn.com/2013/10/04/us/dc-shooting-miriam-carey/index.html
  • Discussion with Duane  about depression with psychosis 
  • Miriam using the vehicle as a weapon – “Shoot to kill”
  • The diagnosis was made and a lack of understanding of these illnesses
  • Jennifer discusses HIPPA and the barriers; Forcing someone into treatment
  • Duane on taking the risk to help someone  (even with the chance of a lawsuit) and privacy rights 
  • A perception versus reality  of increased murders- Mass murders versus single murders 
  • Technology use- a good thing?  
  • Duane talks about internet video games and the influence on mass murder 
  • Building bombs and ordering assault weapons all available on line
  • Jennifer discusses her work with local NAMI- on the Board of Directors and on a Committee to decriminalize the mentally ill
  • Ladyjustice asks Duane, how do we lose the stigma of mental illness?

Questions You May Have:

  • What is included in the definition of mental illness and from the perspectives of Duane & Jennifer?
  • What is the incidence of adult mental health disorders according to NAMI?
  • What are some of the behaviors in a sociopathic personality?
  • Can we “grow a conscience”?
  • What percentage of the population has been theorized to be psychopaths? 
  • What is to be done with the sociopathic killer?
  • Is lack of access to certain kinds of guns the answer?
  • What is the stereotype concerning who is the most vulnerable and dangerous?
  • What were the consequences of the de-institutionalization of the mentally ill? 
  • How many deaths are there in the US attributed to guns as compared to other countries?  
  • What is the consensus regarding background checks? 
  • What are the consequences of denying versus recognizing mental illness of our loved ones?
  • What is the difference between a targeted killer and a mass murder killer?
  • What is psychosis?
  • Are we able to have the “social will” to report at risk persons for treatment?
  • What are the influences to reduce and increase certain kinds of crimes?
  • How do we “sort out the truly dangerous “and yet de-criminalize those who should not be incarcerated? 


Contact Information:

Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins:


Director, Marsy’s Law for Illinois 312-882-4584


 Duane T. Bowers LPC, CCHt, pllc

200 Park Ave, Suite 304
Falls Church, VA 22046

1629 K St. NW, Suite 300
Washington, DC 20006

Phone: (202) 236-5452
Fax: (800) 934-9736

E-mail and press inquiries:


The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests. 

 Additional References: 



When Mental Illness Intersects with Murder

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