Defense Pursues Insanity Defense in Abortion Clinic Murder Trial

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Phillip Resnick testified last week that accused murderer John Salvi suffered delusions brought on by paranoid schizophrenia when he killed two and wounded five at two Brookline, Mass. abortion clinics in December 1994. Resnick’s defense testimony contradicted the evidence of Salvi’s careful planning provided by the prosecution. Two witnesses testified to watching Salvi practice shooting his rifle at close range days before the shootings, and a hairstylist testified that Salvi had his long curls cut off shortly after the killings, altering his appearance.

While the public seems outraged by rising crime rates and worried that some guilty people do get away with murder, Salvi’s trial is one of several currently using the insanity defense. Resnick testified that Salvi did know the legal ramifications of his actions and tried to prevent his capture, but that Salvi’s delusions governed his mind such that he could not understand the “moral wrongfulness” of his acts and was therefore legally insane.

If convicted, Salvi would serve a mandatory life sentence in jail. If acquitted by reason of insanity, he would be confined to a mental hospital but could be freed if doctors later conclude he is sane.


The New York Times - March 4, 1996

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