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Compatibility Between Mental Disorder and Mental Capacity: Analysis of a Particular Case of Group Sexual Homicide

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On the night of August 19, 2000, at the foot of Castel del Monte, an 8-year-old girl was brutally murdered. The perpetrators were identified as five young men who captured their victim and sexually abused her. The policemen found the cadaver by following “Mario,” one of the five, who had been discovered lying on the ground, near the castle. Investigation led to demonstrate that the murder was not premeditated. The only desire of the group was to sexually molest the little girl. Mario showed signs of psychiatric pathology and for that he underwent psychiatric evaluation by judicial authorities. Analysis of this case, combined with a criminological and medical-legal perspective led to conclusions very much different from the expectations of Mario’s defense attorneys. Mario, a marginal figure and seemingly the least intelligent, played the role of group instigator, both in the initiation of sexually abusing the child, as well as in the elimination of an inconvenient witness. However, the group was able to activate Mario’s sadistic fantasies and his sexual perversions, and he ended up in a catalyzing role influencing the behavior of others and realizing what would otherwise remain only fantasies. The circularity of the group allows people like Mario, who are apparently subordinate, to influence the behavior of others. Mario was found to have a mental disorder but it was not sufficient to diminish his personal responsibility related to the crime. In fact, according to Italian judicial code, it is necessary that the motivation for the crime was psychopathological. It was for this reason that, according to Italian law, all of the members of the group were considered to be responsible for the crimes committed and were condemned.
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Keywords: criminal responsibility; forensic science; mental capacity; mental illness; sexual homicide

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Sezione di Criminologia e Psichiatria Forense, Università di Bari, Policlinico Universitario, G. Cesare, 70124 Bari, Italy. 2: Sezione di Medicina-Legale, Università di Bari, Policlinico Universitario, G. Cesare, 70124 Bari, Italy.

Publication date: 2008-11-01

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