Psychopathy, Diminished Capacity, and Responsibility

Diminished capacity and actuality are partial responsibility defenses, developed in the recognition that the irrationalities, dyscontrol, and compulsions generated by mental abnormalities that lead to criminal offending exist along a spectrum and are rarely all or none phenomena as what is required for the insanity defense. In the diminished capacity defense, the presence of a mental disorder or abnormality is raised to cast doubt on the elements of mens rea that are part of a specific intent crime; a defendant may be found mentally incapable of forming the specific intent that is an intrinsic part of the definition of a crime. Psychopathy is a chronic disorder of empathy, poor behavioral controls, social deviance, and predatory violence. Within the interpersonal–affective domain, psychopaths demonstrate fearlessness, callousness, emotional detachment, and lack of empathy and remorse. Illnesses based only on antisocial conduct are excluded from qualifying in these insanity defenses.

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