NPR logo

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90223481/90225957" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
Insane or Just Plain Nuts

Insane or Just Plain Nuts

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/90223481/90225957" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

It is by far one of the most unpleasant stories out there. A man in Austria commits the worst kind of child abuse — and then takes it into another stratosphere of evil by keeping his children and grandchildren (all of whom he fathered) in a basement for years. It's a horrible, horrible story — and my informal survey of friends and compatriots has found either people can't read about it at all — or they just want to know what breach of hell created this man's particular brand of evil. Austrian courts however, have a different set of questions — namely, is Josef Fritzl legally insane? One argument says he wouldn't have kept the kids hidden away if he didn't know what he was doing was wrong. Insane is legal term — not a medical one. (And meshuggeneh is merely a descriptor, if you're curious.) The insanity defense is invoked in Law and Order and CSI a lot — but it differs from state to state, country to country, and court to court. Insanity Famous defendants that have pleaded insanity range from Zacarias Moussaoui to D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo. Even Reagan's would-be assassin, John Hinckley Jr., used the insanity defense — and the court found him not guilty back in 1982. Today — we're talking about Insane vs. Crazy: questions? Post 'em here.