insanity on trial
ralph tortorici
mentally ill inmates

press reaction


"... Network newsmagazines have increasingly turned to 'mysteries' to jack up their ratings, investigating the kind of seamy cases that too often find their way into Lifetime movies, sometimes even asking viewers to 'vote' on a suspect's guilt or innocence.

"PBS' 'Frontline,' though, can't seem to get with the program.

"The newsmagazine that ran stories about Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein long before Sept. 11 takes on our criminal justice system in 'A Crime of Insanity.' ...

"[The story] is laid out in un-hysterical fashion by 'Frontline,' whose interviews ... offer more insights into the strengths and weaknesses of our adversarial system than you'll find on a dozen episodes of 'Law & Order.'"

LEGAL TIMES Joel Chineson

"The first line of Ford Maddox Ford's novel The Good Soldier -- 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard' -- could equally apply to 'A Crime of Insanity.' ...

"Determining a defendant's sanity is tricky business -- for psychiatrists and for the courts. When the system appears to break down, it's not always easy to say why. 'A Crime of Insanity' isn't hellbent on pointing fingers of blame; it's more interested in finding answers than scapegoats. Filmmakers David Murdock, Miri Navasky, and Karen O'Connor deserve credit for coaxing such candid answers from their interview subjects. You will be hard-pressed to find another forum in which prosecutors talk so candidly about the criminal justice system. ..."

THE STAR-LEDGER (NEWARK) Alan Sepinwall & Matt Zoller Seitz

"... 'Frontline' does not dispute that Tortorici did the things he was charged with, or that he was a dangerous, unstable individual. But it does ask whether the state was right to deem a clearly insane person mentally fit to stand trial, then sentence him to hard time alongside people who understood basic notions of right and wrong.

"Tortorici's case exposes the gap between the realities of mental illness and the American system's desire to satisfy crime victims' desire for justice, even if it means disregarding common sense. ...

"As 'Frontline' illustrates, in America the push for prison time is so intense and the standards of mental competency to stand trial are so low that nearly anyone can be sent to prison for any crime -- even paranoid schizophrenics who believe the government has injected their bodies with microchips."

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