Devastating Psychobabble: Premeditated Child Killings by an Allegedly “Loving” Mother

–Richard E. Vatz
     This professor has written extensively over the last 25 years or so regarding the insanity plea in criminal jurisprudence.
     That plea is used almost exclusively to exculpate and eventually provide freedom for those who have committed criminal acts but did so in an unconventional way.  The plea allows defendants, through their hired forensic psychiatrists, to claim: 1. They didn’t know what they were doing, or 2. They couldn’t control what they were doing.  This is the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code Test defense.  I want to say the “infamous” defense, but I suppose it is not sufficiently stigmatized.
     I would not be writing now on just another of the uses of this bogus defense, but a psychiatrist and another behavioral scientist have reached my pretty high threshold of outrage. 
     About a week ago, Florida resident Tonya Thomas shot and killed her four beautiful children, and then — thank God for small favors — she killed herself.
     This mass murder is, if possible, made more outrageous by the fact that the perpetrator-mother, according to the account in USA Today, tricked her victims – Pebbles Johnson, 17, Jaxs Johnson, 15, Jazzlyn Johnson, 13, and  Joel Johnson, 12 — into returning home from a neighbor’s house, where she shot them and ended their lives.
     Interpretation: the woman was frustrated with her troublesome children, found financial life difficult and couldn’t care less that she would forever end the chance of her own children to find their own fortunes in a lifetime of seeking and conquering challenges, having their own children, having jobs and trying to make a happy situation in this wonderful country.
    But there was another interpretation by a poetic, excusing psychiatrist.

     Phillip Resnick, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University, opined that this brutal slaughter was “altruistic;” wherein the mother genuinely believed she was helping the children by ending their lives.  As he was quoted by USA Today, “It’s a murder out of love rather than a murder out of hate.”

      Let me not disparage the fake medical diagnosis for lack of contemplative consideration: it took Dr. Resnick, oh, days to come up with this counterintuitive justification.

     The newspaper also quotes yet another rationalized account by the author of a book on mothers who kill their children, Michelle Oberman, who says that this catastrophe falls into the “loving category” of murders; she “loves her babies.”

     There is no punishment that can be meted out to such a woman, of whom Oberman says, “It’s too simple to say they are monsters who hate their babies.”

     Correct: I would add that such killers are sadistic cowards whose reputations can be counted on to be rehabilitated by opportunistic, psychobabbling pseudo-doctors of behavior.

Professor Vatz teaches psychiatric rhetoric in his Persuasion class at Towson University and is author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion Kendall Hunt.

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