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Truth, Law and Forensic Psychiatry in Truman Capote's In Cold Blood

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Abstract:

Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966) presents itself as a “true account” of a multiple murder. This claim to telling the truth about a murder makes it relevant to scholarship in law and humanities, especially in relation to questions regarding narratives and justice. However the degree to which this famous text relies on forensic psychiatry has not been sufficiently acknowledged. A scientific paper from 1960 provides a key to the understanding of Capote's account. It turns out that telling the truth about murder in this case means telling the truth about murderers, conforming with what Michel Foucault has termed the “Garofalo principle”. This paper analyses Capote's way of handling textual models such as the court ruling and the psychiatric report and relates them to Foucault's writings on the history of forensic psychiatry. What is at stake at the end of the day, it is argued, is what happens to justice when psychiatry enters the court of law.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5235/L&H.6.2.243

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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  • Law and Humanities is a peer-reviewed journal, providing a for for scholarly discourse within the arts and humanities around the subject of law. For this purpose, the arts and humanities disciplines are taken to include literature, history (including history of art), philosophy, theology, classics and the whole spectrum of performance and representational arts. The remit of the journal does not extend to consideration of the laws that regulate practical aspects of the arts and humanities (such as the law of intellectual property). Law and Humanities is principally concerned to engage with those aspects of human experience which are not empirically quantifiable or scientifically predictable.
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