Syndrome-Based Defenses

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Syndrome-Based Defenses, Title Page

The Exploration of Unique Syndrome-Based Defenses
Kathryn Davis
Nelson Staples
CRJS 256 Criminal Law
March 25, 2010

Syndrome-Based Defenses 1
Abstract
Many court cases involve some type of syndrome-based defense, whether it be anything from battered women’s syndrome to Vietnam syndrome to fetal alcohol syndrome to attention deficit disorder. In these cases, the accused tries to use their disease or disorder as a reason to get a not guilty charge. A syndrome-based defense is a defense based on the acceptability of syndrome-related claims. Since syndromes are viewed as diseases or disorders, we might anticipate the development based on other disorders, perhaps Alzheimer’s, alcoholism, or drug addiction. Though the use of such defenses is on the rise, the success rate of said defenses has yet to change.

Syndrome-Based Defenses 2
The Exploration of Unique Syndrome-Based Defenses
A syndrome is defined as a “complex of signs and symptoms presenting a clinical picture of a disease or disorder.” A syndrome-based defense is a “defense predicated on, or substantially enhanced by, the acceptability of syndrome-related claims.” Some types of syndrome-based defenses when it comes to parents in particular are parental abuse syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome, adopted child syndrome, mother lion syndrome, parental alienation syndrome, Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome, and distant father syndrome. Parental abuse syndrome was the defense used by brothers Lyle and Erik Menendez, who claimed that the reason they killed their mother and father was because they had both been brutally abused by their parents as children. Fetal alcohol syndrome is used as a defense when a person claims that the reason they committed the crime was because their mother drank alcohol while she was pregnant with the accused. Adopted child syndrome is a defense in which the person claims that they committed the crime while under a “sleeper effect” after finding out that they’re adopted for the first time. Mother lion syndrome is a defense used to explain the extreme measures a mother would go to in order to protect her children, just like a mother lion. Parental alienation syndrome is a disorder in which a child grows up with parents who go through a divorce, and claim that the reason they committed the crime was because as a child, one parent plays one against the other; a form of “hate training”. This phrase was coined in 1992 by psychologist Richard Gardner. Distant father syndrome is a defense created by Robert Bly in the book Iron John in 1993. This defense is mainly used by men who claim that as Syndrome-Based Defenses 3

a child, their father never showed up, never paid child support, never showed their son their workplace, etc. The Munchausen-by-proxy syndrome is caused by parents who crave attention and therefore will cause or falsify their children’s abuse, in an attempt to get back at the system or to take away some of the glory from people who they perceive as professionals. Overall, the more common syndrome-based defenses are usually giving blame to the parents of the person(s) who committed the crime.

There are also many cultural-based syndromes. The current most common cultural defense is internet addiction disorder, which medical specialists are believing to be as real as alcoholism. Other disorders that have been used in court are fan obsession syndrome, American dream syndrome, cultural norms defense, everybody does it defense, gone with the wind syndrome, the television defense, and the rock and roll defense. Fan obsession disorder was used as a defense by Robert Bardo in 1992 when he killed actress Rebecca Schaeffer. This defense was created by his psychiatrist Park Elliot Dietz. American dream syndrome is a defense in which one claims that cultural influences increase crime because of Americans wanting to get ahead economically. The cultural norms defense is one in which a person from an...
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