Recently Henry Meinholz was arrested for last year's murder of thirteen-year-old Melissa Benoit. During the trial, his lawyers claimed his innocence by reason of insanity. My reaction to this plan: huh? How can insanity mean a person didn't commit the crime? I really don't think Melissa cared, when she was dying, whether her murderer was sane or insane. The fact was, the murder was committed. Period. No claim of insanity can change that fact. I think that defense lawyers should be prohibited from claiming clients' innocence by reason of insanity. A better claim would be guilty while insane. To paraphrase my dictionary, innocent means not having committed a crime, or more specifically, not having done something which society considers criminal. In Meinholz's case, therefore, the adjective "innocent" doesn't apply. In my opinion, a court is almost as insane as Mr. Meinholz's lawyers say he was when it allows a criminal to be labeled "innocent" for whatever reason. n
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.