Friday, May 2, 2014

Another Mental Illness Tragedy: Could This Have Been Avoided?

There are not enough details in this May 2, 2014 Seattle Post-Intelligencer article to tell for sure, but the killer's mental illness history suggests that at least his family knew that there was something seriously wrong:
NEW YORK (AP) — A schizophrenic was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for hacking a psychotherapist to death with a meat cleaver, capping a criminal case confounded for years by questions about the attacker's mental health.
In a moving proceeding, David Tarloff described a constant battle in his mind and pleaded for mercy as he was sentenced on his first-degree murder conviction, a conclusion that came after repeated mistrials and findings that Tarloff was unfit for court.
He apologized to the victim's family and begged for as light a sentence as possible — 40 years to life — while describing 28 years of being tormented by what seemed to him like the voices of God and Satan. "I've never hurt a single person intentionally," Tarloff said. "I didn't want to do this, I swear to God ... but I thought all these bad things were going to happen."
Tarloff was found legally sane (which is actually the norm when severely mentally ill people are tried for serious crimes), but it does not in any way indicate that he was not severely mentally ill.  He planned his crime well in advance, and made efforts to evade detection after the crime, pretty well demonstrating that he knew what he was doing was wrong, the legal standard for sanity.  

What a tragedy -- mostly for the victim and his family, secondarily for Tarloff, and then for the taxpayers of New York, who will pay for hold this guy in prison for the rest of his life.  What would it have cost to provide him psychiatric care fifteen years ago?


  1. This may sound odd, but follow me here.

    I wonder how well off David's family was.

    There is the saying "you get what you pay for" and I see this played out by defendants and their attorneys. If you have a court appointed attorney, your best bet is the plea deal. If you have a "cheap" attorney, you may get weekends. But a high priced attorney will get you out/greatly reduced sentence.

    Here is where I get to the meat and potatoes.

    When the Gus Deeds incident occurred in Virginia, our first thought was "why didn't they arrest him?" Sad but true. If someone is showing enough reason to be committed, then they are also doing something that can be considered an offense. Minor, but an offense. And I know many Law Enforcement will go the arrest route because it is shorter. Not respectable, but legal.

    Unfortunately, police won't often arrest someone who has "the proper connections." (This is not an absolute, but I can only tell you what the road units tell me.)

    I would love to know why the police did not take action on this person long before it reached it's unfortunate conclusion. I'd love to know if influence had something to do with this, but I have no clue how to properly measure such an issue or how to even go about gathering data on it.

    My rant ends. With this issue, there was just something off kilter. I can't put my finger on it.

  2. My own experience is that most minor offenses that should lead to involuntary commitment only lead to a few days in jail, at most. Partly, this is because jails are already crowded with mentally ill minor offenders.