Anders Breivik on Trial- Is the man sane or insane?

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One of they key issues emerging from Breivik's trial is if the man who killed 77 people last July is if he is sane or not. The first battery of psychiatric reports stated that he was insane, but a new report has concluded to the contrary, deeming him sane and fully accountable for his actions.

Wherever he is sane or not has a significant impact on the trial. If he's insane then he will be sentenced for life in a mental institution- and from Breivik's perspective his argument will be discredited because, officially, his actions and his writings came from a madman. So, naturally he wants to be found sane- and then face a lifetime sentence in jail.

Personally i'm not sure how anyone can kill 77 people, most of them face-to-face in cold blood and be "mentally sane". I've read various personal accounts written soldiers at varying points in history and they often uncomfortably describe in detail the first man they killed. Killing other humans and seeing dead bodies isn't mentally easy, it's why PTSD is so common amongst soldiers. How one can do it dozens of dozens of times whilst looking their victims in the eye and be sane i don't know. Breivik has shown no remorse for his victims whilst on the trial, even when played footage of emergency phone calls made by those on the island and images of the bomb attack he committed. I can only think he's mentally insane.

A few other highlights from the trial:
1) Breivik has stated that he doesn't recognise the validity of the court that is trailing him, saying it's a court mandated by multicultural parties.

2) He's also pleaded not guilty to the charges- he acknowledges what he's done but doesn't recognise it as a crime.

It's difficult to judge form over here.

Additionally, it's difficult to come up with a definition of "sane".

If he was a soldier, and killed 77 of the enemy, he'd be a hero. If he was a soldier and killed 77 of "enemy civilians" he could well be a hero to some, and a criminal to others, but not necessarily insane.

IMHO, it's too easy to claim people who do terrible things must be "insane", it's a cop out answer.

"Insane" usually means "thinks differently to me/most people", he'd certainly fit that description, but it's not really that useful.

I prefer the M'Naughten test

Mc'Naughten Test (Traditional English Rule for Insanity):
To establish a defence on the ground of insanity it must be clearly proved, that, at the time of committing the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know that what he was doing was wrong.

In other words, in order to establish insanity, they must determine if he has a diagnosable mental illness that could substantially alter his mental state that he could not understand what he was doing or, more likely, sufficiently impaired his ability to determine right and wrong. No disease, no insanity.

It should be noted that anti-social personality disorder (a.k.a. Sociopathy/psychopathy) is not covered under most insanity rules.

thaluikhain:
It's difficult to judge form over here.

Additionally, it's difficult to come up with a definition of "sane".

If he was a soldier, and killed 77 of the enemy, he'd be a hero. If he was a soldier and killed 77 of "enemy civilians" he could well be a hero to some, and a criminal to others, but not necessarily insane.

IMHO, it's too easy to claim people who do terrible things must be "insane", it's a cop out answer.

"Insane" usually means "thinks differently to me/most people", he'd certainly fit that description, but it's not really that useful.

Yeah, I was going to say something along these lines.
I'm not sure if you can class harbouring extreme political views as "insane".

If he'd had voices in his head telling him to kill them then he would be insane, because that indicates something biologically or otherwise abnormal with regard to his neurological processes.
But forming such a plan over time as a result of extreme beliefs? I don't think it's insanity so to speak.

The English law on insanity, however, has long been known to quite explicitly not be related to any scientific/medical notions of insanity. In fact, it has a history of being convoluted, leading to a wide number of bizarre outcomes. What, for instance, is a disease of the mind in law? I'll tell you one thing: it's not a disease according to any medical definition you'll ever find.

He has different opinions about right and wrong, and an abnormal tolerance for bloodshed. That doesn't make him insane. It just makes him dangerous, and in this case an enemy of his people. Giving this guy an insanity defense would be merely to perpetuate the notion that having an understandable reason to kill people somehow aggravates the crime of killing people. It's asinine.

Nickolai77:

A few other highlights from the trial:
1) Breivik has stated that he doesn't recognise the validity of the court that is trailing him, saying it's a court mandated by multicultural parties.

2) He's also pleaded not guilty to the charges- he acknowledges what he's done but doesn't recognise it as a crime.

You know what's the most amusing bit? People are outraged by this as if they were expecting something else.

And no I don't think he's "insane". He's messed up in the head, yes but he knew fully well what he was doing. Also, this...

Seanchaidh:
Giving this guy an insanity defense would be merely to perpetuate the notion that having an understandable reason to kill people somehow aggravates the crime of killing people. It's asinine.

...isn't exactly how insanity defense works, I'd be inclined to believe. Insanity defense is basically saying "This man doesn't belong in prison, but in a mental institution". It's a way of saying "lock him up somewhere else", he'll just be picked up by a couple of orderlies if the defense succeeds, instead of couple of officers.

Vegosiux:

Seanchaidh:
Giving this guy an insanity defense would be merely to perpetuate the notion that having an understandable reason to kill people somehow aggravates the crime of killing people. It's asinine.

...isn't exactly how insanity defense works, I'd be inclined to believe. Insanity defense is basically saying "This man doesn't belong in prison, but in a mental institution". It's a way of saying "lock him up somewhere else", he'll just be picked up by a couple of orderlies if the defense succeeds, instead of couple of officers.

Unless you think a mental institution is just as bad as a prison, I'm not sure where we disagree. Now, I'm sure in many ways they are quite comparable. But I don't think they are just as awful an experience.

Seanchaidh:
He has different opinions about right and wrong, and an abnormal tolerance for bloodshed. That doesn't make him insane. It just makes him dangerous, and in this case an enemy of his people. Giving this guy an insanity defense would be merely to perpetuate the notion that having an understandable reason to kill people somehow aggravates the crime of killing people. It's asinine.

I'd second that.

I'd also say that it's insulting to actually mentally ill people. I don't mean that in a snarky way, mental illness comes with a massive stigma. Most mentally ill people who are dangerous are dangerous only to themselves, lumping someone like Breivik in with them doesn't help any.

Unless he is actually determined to be mentally ill by qualified people, of course.

Seanchaidh:

Unless you think a mental institution is just as bad as a prison, I'm not sure where we disagree. Now, I'm sure in many ways they are quite comparable. But I don't think they are just as awful an experience.

Being surrounded by poor demented, drooling sods who can't hold their water? I'd argue it can even be worse for a sane man!

Besides why does it have to be bad? Punishments exist to protect the society, not to make perpetrators suffer.

Let me ask something. Why is the people's call for blood always acceptable?

I've always said, "Don't wish upon another person what you're not perfectly willing to commit yourself in cold blood. And if you're perfectly willing to commit torture or murder in cold blood, tell me where you live so I can keep away."

As for Breivik? He's going to be put away, that's for sure. And then he'll become an exhibit of interests for many budding psychologists, I'm afraid. Plus, he's already got more media attention than he deserves. Seriously, society, you really do act silly sometimes.

I don't think he was insane, it was an insane act for sure but he saw himself as a soldier fighting for a cause. His murderous act could easily be compared with a soldier killing 77 enemies. No mental institution can "cure" him, his issue is his fanatism not a mental illness.

Zappanale:
The English law on insanity, however, has long been known to quite explicitly not be related to any scientific/medical notions of insanity. In fact, it has a history of being convoluted, leading to a wide number of bizarre outcomes. What, for instance, is a disease of the mind in law? I'll tell you one thing: it's not a disease according to any medical definition you'll ever find.

It should be noted that M'Naughten is a general rule/framework as to how to approach the issue of insanity, not necessarily the rule itself.

Application of insanity has always been a little hairy, sometimes due to the lack of knowledge of what constitutes a mental illness, other times due to the stigma that comes with it. Modern applications generally (but not always) require some kind of diagnosis by a psychological professional to establish an affirmative defense. Again, the idea is that a mental illness of sufficient impairment of reason would be needed to establish insanity.

It's hard to decide. He's obviously an egotistical sociopath, it explains the lack of remorse and recognition of wrongdoing. But does that mean he's insane? Insanity is usually seen as being unable to properly distinguish reality and fantasy, not something Breivik seems to be showing. Obviously A) I'm not a shrink and B) I'm going off what the papers say so that's never going to be the whole story.

But in the end I don't care if he's clinically insane, either way he dies in a cage. While the ramblings of a madman have less credence the vast majority of people already think he's a fruitcake, the only people who will care what he has to say are people that already think like him.

Vegosiux:
Besides why does it have to be bad? Punishment exist to protect the society, not to make perpetrators suffer.

Let me ask something. Why is the people's call for blood always acceptable?

I've always said, "Don't wish upon another person what you're not perfectly willing to commit yourself in cold blood. And if you're perfectly willing to commit torture or murder in cold blood, tell me where you live so I can keep away."

You forget that especially among Americans criminal justice is really just a vicarious system of vengeance. Lots of emotional pleas, very little pragmatism.

Anyway, I doubt that Breivik will get away with an insanity defense. He's very clearly in full control of his actions and feels no compulsion toward violence. He just has no moral compass, at least not one that a normal person could get their head around.

It's a tough one really. From a legal view point I have to admit that I'm not too sure how to judge this one.
Personally however, I think that hiding his actions behind an insanity plea would do more harm than good as it would present what he did as the workings of a lone madman and thus, not a product of society. Though I do not maintain that society actively pushed him to this, far from it,I find it is an extremely extremist representation of the current political climate in most of Europe at the moment.
As such, I would find it preferable for him to be judged as sane so that we can reflect on what influenced him rather than just dissmissing his acts as that of a madman.

Beyond a certain point, it doesn't matter.

If he is insane, or was temporarily insane, he is a danger to society and needs to be kept away from it for the rest of his life.

If he is and was sane, he is a danger to society and must be kept away from it for the rest of his life

I care little if the prison he gets stuck in has the words psychiatric, hospital, and/or mental appended to its title or not, so long as it is a prison in truth.

As for the actual question, insane, primarily based upon his continued statements about what he did. There are reasons and situations in which a sane man can justify killing others to himself (if not necessarily to others or to the judicial system), but what happened in Oslo fall well outside of those bounds.

Vegosiux:

Nickolai77:

A few other highlights from the trial:
1) Breivik has stated that he doesn't recognise the validity of the court that is trailing him, saying it's a court mandated by multicultural parties.

2) He's also pleaded not guilty to the charges- he acknowledges what he's done but doesn't recognise it as a crime.

You know what's the most amusing bit? People are outraged by this as if they were expecting something else.

And no I don't think he's "insane". He's messed up in the head, yes but he knew fully well what he was doing. Also, this...

To be honest, i think that's what i'd have to conclude. He may not be medically diagnosable as "insane", but clearly he doesn't think like a normal person would. He's messed up in the head in the same kind of way many many other people are but they arn't put in a lunatic asylum because they arn't mad enough.

Well, its seems likely that he is sane.

A complete cultural conservative fanatic with a warped and paranoid perception of both what "the threat" to western culture is and how significant it is, sure, but he's done nothing quite sane men haven't done before. Auschwitz wasn't run by blabbering lunatics, but by skilled administrators.

Of course, since there are two conflicting reports regarding his sanity, neither of which have been discredited as not being up to par, he's not sane beyond all reasonable doubt. And since intent "beyond all reasonable doubt" is the standard needed for conviction, he might be declared legally insane anyway in accordance with the principle of "in dubio pro reo" ("doubt favours the accused").

Though Norway's Prime Minister have blatantly tried to influence the court on the matter by saying that it would be better for the victims if Breivik was declared sane. Bastard should be put on trial for attempting to interfere with an ongoing trial.

Insane is the incorrect medical term to be used... he is something else... and I think he should be locked away for the rest of his days for public saftey as there has clearly been a glitch in his matrix...

Heronblade:
Beyond a certain point, it doesn't matter.

If he is insane, or was temporarily insane, he is a danger to society and needs to be kept away from it for the rest of his life.

If he is and was sane, he is a danger to society and must be kept away from it for the rest of his life

I care little if the prison he gets stuck in has the words psychiatric, hospital, and/or mental appended to its title or not, so long as it is a prison in truth.

As for the actual question, insane, primarily based upon his continued statements about what he did. There are reasons and situations in which a sane man can justify killing others to himself (if not necessarily to others or to the judicial system), but what happened in Oslo fall well outside of those bounds.

Gotta agree with everything here especially if by "kept away for the rest of his life" you mean found guilty and executed. There is 0 reason to keep him alive, nothing he does in prison can make up for the lives he took.

Xan Krieger:
Gotta agree with everything here especially if by "kept away for the rest of his life" you mean found guilty and executed. There is 0 reason to keep him alive, nothing he does in prison can make up for the lives he took.

Don't think Norway does that. Kindly go sate your bloodthirst somewhere else?

Seriously, why is it OK if you want to kill someone?

Vegosiux:

Xan Krieger:
Gotta agree with everything here especially if by "kept away for the rest of his life" you mean found guilty and executed. There is 0 reason to keep him alive, nothing he does in prison can make up for the lives he took.

Don't think Norway does that. Kindly go sate your bloodthirst somewhere else?

Seriously, why is it OK if you want to kill someone?

Well, let me see:

-One person wants to kill billions of people because they either are members of a religion he doesn't like, or aren't willing to help him kill the members of that religion

-The other person wants to kill the first in order to prevent more innocent blood from being spilled

I can understand denying the second person's request, at least if the first person is safely incarcerated and can be guaranteed to remain incarcerated, but there is just a little bit of a difference in motive here.

Since I don't have an MA Psych, I'd prefer not to speculate. I couldn't possibly give a useful armchair evaluation.

And in addition to my position of letting people in other countries make their decisions for themselves, I'm not interested in telling a court in another country how they should find him. I don't feel the difference between sanity/rulings really makes much difference in this case. In fact, I can only think of one trial I've ever heard of where an insanity ruling IMHO invalidated the verdict for reasons other than some people just wanting more vicious punishment. And that has less to do with the severity of punishment after institutionalisation and more to do with a case where a case where a criminal who was found insane was extradited to his home country, where there was no legal apparatus to maintain the verdict of the country he was convicted in, so he was released.

He wants to be found sane so his statement is 'validated'

For that reason alone the arsewipe should be found Insane and left to defecate in a nappy with 4 rubber walls for the rest of his life.

Heronblade:

-The other person wants to kill the first in order to prevent more innocent blood from being spilled

See, that's where I call "bullshit". First and foremost, that "want" is about vengeance and bloodthirst.

I can understand denying the second person's request, at least if the first person is safely incarcerated, but there is just a little bit of a difference in motive here.

Yes, "because the world would be a better place without that first person", I assume? Hey, I wonder what that "first person" would say about the ones they killed?

I'm not trying to defend Breivik here, I think they should lock him up and throw away the key, but seriously, if killing is bad then killing is bad.

Well he is obviously insane. He lived with his mom and have had a job since 2006. He was under no pressure from his peers or government to do what he did, which is the only reason I could guess a "sane" person could do something like that.

But he wasn't mentally unable to make the connection that what he did was illegal, considered wrong by everybody else and highly immoral. He knew all this and decided to go ahead with his anyway, admittedly because his warped morality made him draw the conclusion that it was for the best.

But my point is, if you realise that what you are doing is considered illegal and wrong, and still go ahead with it even if you do not consider it wrong, you belong in prison. If you are unnable to make the connection that what you are doing is wrong, you belong in a mental institution.

Anders Beiring Breivik doesn't seem unable to make that judgement. So he belongs in prison. And I doubt there's a chance he's going to get anything but life.

Vegosiux:

Heronblade:

-The other person wants to kill the first in order to prevent more innocent blood from being spilled

See, that's where I call "bullshit". First and foremost, that "want" is about vengeance and bloodthirst.

I can understand denying the second person's request, at least if the first person is safely incarcerated, but there is just a little bit of a difference in motive here.

Yes, "because the world would be a better place without that first person", I assume? Hey, I wonder what that "first person" would say about the ones they killed?

I'm not trying to defend Breivik here, I think they should lock him up and throw away the key, but seriously, if killing is bad then killing is bad.

I cannot speak for Xan, but my "want" in terms of executing men like Breivik has far more to do with both expediency and mercy than vengeance or bloodlust.

The value judgement that "the world is a better place without", is one that pretty much everyone in the entire world makes. Whether you imprison a person for life or execute them, their life is over, and the world is now free of their influence, the former case just ends with a walking corpse that takes a lot longer to finally get buried.

As for your last statement, killing is killing. As with so many other actions, there is nothing inherently good or bad about it. Any value judgement we might place on one person killing another depend heavily on who was involved, how it happened, and why it happened. Don't get me wrong, nearly all reasons to kill are bad reasons, hence our willingness and ability to pronounce Breivik as scum of the earth, but the details can and do matter.

A lot of people seem to say "I don't care whether he's insane or not as log as he goes away for life", now the problem with that is that if he is found to be sane he will be out in 30 odd years, Norway does not have life sentences. (21 years for "normal" crimes, 30 for terrorism).

So if you want him locked away "forever" you need to get him declared insane.

It's difficult to say. Judging from his behaviour and especially the motivation he indicated, he's definately deluded, but I don't think it's possible to say anything sensible about mental defects or personality disorders he may or may not be suffering from.

Atrocious Joystick:
Well he is obviously insane. He lived with his mom and have had a job since 2006. He was under no pressure from his peers or government to do what he did, which is the only reason I could guess a "sane" person could do something like that.

But that's exactly why he may well be quite sane; Breivik lived rather isolated from the rest of society and even his family later on. Possibly he read a lot of xenophobic Christian propaganda like 'ohnoes, the Muslims are coming' and then isolated himself, so that's the only thing that stuck in his mind.

Isolation has been known to breed extremism. For instance most leftwing extremists, the kind who firebomb homes and attack demonstrations ussually come from squats and live pretty isolated among other left wing radicals, rarely work or do other things that brings them into contact with society, which leads them to radicalise. Religious groups and cults also try to isolate their members within the own group so they're easier to control and manipulate. Standard practise in deradicalisation programs is exposing people to different ideas.

I'd be more willing to question Breivik's sanity if he had one or two Muslim friends, a broad circle of acquitances, work and good contact with his family and still did what he did.

Eleuthera:
A lot of people seem to say "I don't care whether he's insane or not as log as he goes away for life", now the problem with that is that if he is found to be sane he will be out in 30 odd years, Norway does not have life sentences. (21 years for "normal" crimes, 30 for terrorism).

So if you want him locked away "forever" you need to get him declared insane.

I might be wrong, but I think that legally he can't be released while deemed a danger to the public, regardless of how long he's been in jail.*
And lets be honest, he's going to be considered dangerous for the rest of his life no matter what he does, and that's if he's not killed by another inmate while he's in there.

---

*No direct source sorry, I read it in the Guardian weeks ago.

thaluikhain:
If he was a soldier, and killed 77 of the enemy, he'd be a hero. If he was a soldier and killed 77 of "enemy civilians" he could well be a hero to some, and a criminal to others, but not necessarily insane.

IMHO, it's too easy to claim people who do terrible things must be "insane", it's a cop out answer.

I agree. This is reminiscent of the "bravery" thread - we can't just decide to redefine the meaning of words to suit our own viewpoint or opinion. It's a distancing tactic - "Oh, that guy's not like us, he's insane, and we're not insane, so we'd never do anything horrible like him".

The truth is that sane people, intelligent people, even otherwise nice and pleasant people - are capable of committing horrible acts.

Blablahb:
It's difficult to say. Judging from his behaviour and especially the motivation he indicated, he's definately deluded, but I don't think it's possible to say anything sensible about mental defects or personality disorders he may or may not be suffering from.

Atrocious Joystick:
Well he is obviously insane. He lived with his mom and have had a job since 2006. He was under no pressure from his peers or government to do what he did, which is the only reason I could guess a "sane" person could do something like that.

But that's exactly why he may well be quite sane; Breivik lived rather isolated from the rest of society and even his family later on. Possibly he read a lot of xenophobic Christian propaganda like 'ohnoes, the Muslims are coming' and then isolated himself, so that's the only thing that stuck in his mind.

Isolation has been known to breed extremism. For instance most leftwing extremists, the kind who firebomb homes and attack demonstrations ussually come from squats and live pretty isolated among other left wing radicals, rarely work or do other things that brings them into contact with society, which leads them to radicalise. Religious groups and cults also try to isolate their members within the own group so they're easier to control and manipulate. Standard practise in deradicalisation programs is exposing people to different ideas.

I'd be more willing to question Breivik's sanity if he had one or two Muslim friends, a broad circle of acquitances, work and good contact with his family and still did what he did.

I don't doubt that his social isolation contributed to his radicalisation. But humans are a flock animal. Prolonged social isolation is not the sign of a healthy mind. Well, I think we have differing opinions of sanity. I don't think a leftwing radical could be called sane either. At least not one in a society such as ours that does not breed much need for violent action. Even if you have the views Breivik does, to look at norwegian society and decide that the only viable course of action is violent "resistance" is not the workings of a sane mind. Doesn't mean he wasn't lucid. But I have a hard time calling him sane.

But of course you are right, I don't doubt Breivik's social isolation had more than a little contribution to his radical ideas.

Oh, and of course I meant to say he had NOT worked since 2006.

OneCatch :
I might be wrong, but I think that legally he can't be released while deemed a danger to the public, regardless of how long he's been in jail.*
And lets be honest, he's going to be considered dangerous for the rest of his life no matter what he does, and that's if he's not killed by another inmate while he's in there.

Norway is not the US, it's not like inmates regularly murder one another. And we can't really predict his mind now can we. After 20-30 years in prison he'll be an old man, and barely know anything outside of prison anymore. Heck, 30 years is longer than I've lived.

Breivik is 33 now, so he'll be 63 if released after 30 years. I don't think a pensioner who's spent most of his adult life subjugated in a prison system is going to be much of a threat any longer. In any case I trust the judgement of people trained to asses that kind of thing.

Assuming he's not mentally ill and goes to a regular prison, I might hope they also give him some psychological treatment, which will be aimed at curing his views that are so detached from reality. Who knows what that may do? Stranger things have happened than a violent political radical foreswearing violence and their former ideas.

I mean, we Dutch took down a terror cell called the Hofstadgroep. Radical Al Qaida linked terrorists, it doesn't get more closeminded than that wouldn't you say? Well, one of them, Jason W, apparently totally changed in prison. He foreswore Islamic extremism, and most of what word about him reaches outside, is bashing Islamic extremism and warning people that Islamic extremism is bollocks and won't solve any problems. I mean, if such a thing is possible, who would we be to assume anything is impossible?

And if not, there's always the option to detain longer.

Blablahb:

I didn't intend to suggest that the Norwegian prison system was as violent as the US! In fact, in the UK we'd do well to imitate the Scandinavian judicial systems. Him being killed in custody remains a slight possibility though.

As for the length of sentence, I was merely trying to get in before people started saying "OMG he'll be out in 21 years that's so lenient!!1!1" rather than saying he'll definitely be kept behind bars for longer.

I of course hope that in time he renounces violence and tries to make amends to the relations of his victims, but it does seem unlikely.
And anything less than that is going to mean that there will be massive opposition to him being allowed out.

OneCatch :
I of course hope that in time he renounces violence and tries to make amends to the relations of his victims, but it does seem unlikely.
And anything less than that is going to mean that there will be massive opposition to him being allowed out.

Definately won't be an easy parole with that many victims and relatives of victims, if it were to ever happen, true.

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