The Austin American-Statesman had an interesting article on Friday about a man accused of attempting to bomb an abortion clinic. The claim has been made that the accused, Paul Ross Evans, would not have done so but for a brain cyst and a traumatic brain injury (though it's not clear when the injury occured):
The day after someone left a homemade bomb at a South Interstate 35 women's clinic that performs abortions, Karen Slafter wore a "Pro Choice" button to her job at a South Austin tattoo parlor.
Slafter said she discussed the button that day last month with her co-worker, who didn't seem bothered by her personal statement or particularly opinionated about abortion.
That co-worker, Slafter said, is Paul Ross Evans, the 27-year-old who was arrested the next day on charges he put a homemade pipe bomb outside the Austin Women's Health Center near Oltorf Street.
"I am a woman, and I know he's not anti-abortion," Slafter said.
Evans, she said, has a brain disorder that impairs his reasoning and social functioning. Why he may have put a bomb at a women's clinic "is a huge puzzle" she said, but if it's true, Slafter believes Evans' mental health had something to do with it.
Slafter's statements, coupled with a 2006 news report in which Evans is quoted as saying he had a history of unexplainable evil thoughts, suggest a possible explanation for why the bomb was left and may foreshadow a defense in the case.
I'm quoted in the article for the not-very-earthshattering statement that defense attorneys sometimes seek lenient treatment during plea bargaining by arguing that a defendant was mentally ill at the time a crime was committed. As you may know, Stephen Morse famously argues that while some defects in rationality should be exculpatory, those who merely have difficulty controlling their impulses do not thereby raise legitimate defenses. Here's a link to a recent piece by Stephen Morse that has been posted to SSRN.