Cleveland-Marshall College of Law will host a Criminal Justice Forum, "Insanity as Lost Agency" Wednesday March 1 at 5 p.m. The lecture will be delivered by Stephen Garvey, Professor of Law at Cornell Law School.
About Stephen Garvey:
Professor Stephen Garvey has written and taught in the areas of capital punishment, criminal law, and the philosophy of criminal law. Following his graduation from Yale Law School, Garvey clerked for the Hon. Wilfred Feinberg of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, and then practiced in the Washington, D.C. firm of Covington & Burling. He joined the Cornell Law School Faculty in 1994. Garvey’s current scholarship focuses on substantive criminal law.
About The Lecture:
Existing and proposed accounts of insanity as a legal defense – what insanity is and why it precludes criminal liability – are for one reason or another unsatisfactory. Insanity should instead be understood as “lost agency.” An act is insane if at the time it was performed the actor lacked a sense of agency, i.e., the actor realized his or her body was moving but lacked the sense that he or she was the one moving it. He or she wasn’t the act’s author or agent. This account portrays insanity, not as a defect in cognition or volition, but rather as a defect in consciousness. Insanity is thus seen as continuous with other defects of consciousness, like hypnosis, sleepwalking, and dissociative personality disorder (multiple personality disorder). The insane have been analogized to wild beasts and children. A better analogy, one with its own historical antecedents, would be to possession. Lacking a sense of agency over what they do, the insane are as if under the possession of some alien force or presence.