Letter: Assess Tsarnaev for mental illness


To the editor of THE EAGLE:

Regarding the Feb. 3 editorial "Wrong call on Tsarnaev," The Eagle is to be commended for opposing the U.S. Justice Department’s decision to seek the death penalty for Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. There is evidence, such as flunking out of college when he had been an above average student and marked withdrawal, suggesting he was mentally deteriorating from paranoid schizophrenia where the chief symptom was a combined delusional state ("folie a deux" or madness of two) with his older brother, who may have been the principal planner, and suggesting he was in the midst of a psychotic state where he was automatically carrying out those plans without any appreciation that what he was doing led to unnecessary horrible destruction to life and limb.

It is reported that his nurse said that he cried non-stop for two days when first hospitalized suggesting enough return to reality to appreciate what he had done with attendant remorse. He should not be in an isolation cell, which risks making him worse. He should be sent to a prison psychiatric hospital for two separate psychiatric evaluations by psychiatrists with substantial experience in diagnosing and treating paranoid schizophrenia and by a third if the two disagree. If found to have the signs and symptoms of that mental illness he should be treated with antipsychotic medication and psychotherapy to further bring back reality and his former good judgment.

If found guilty at trial, the death penalty judgment should include the vote of all the victims. If the penalty is life in prison (or in a prison hospital if found not guilty by reason of insanity) and his condition is improved enough for him to have insight about what he did, his sentence should include a lifetime of teaching others when and how to seek adequate help for increasing paranoid delusions and the increased urge to act on hate to deter others with the illness from doing horrible things when not in their right mind. Recovered mentally ill offenders in prison supervised by mental health staff should be the front line in deterring offending by other mentally ill not in prison.


Canaan, N.Y.

Dr. Kinzel was a staff psychiatrist at the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, MO. during his active military duty in the U.S. Public Health Service.


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