Norwegian Mass Murderer Fit to Stand Trial by one Evaluation, Insane by Another

Via the BBC:  Norway’s mass killer Breivik declared sane

A second psychiatric evaluation of Norwegian mass killer Anders Behring Breivik has found him sane enough to face trial and a jail term.

The findings contradict a previous evaluation, published in November, that found him legally insane.

Breivik is due to stand trial on Monday over a shooting spree last July, in which he admits killing 77 people.

The question of his sanity decides whether he will be sent to a psychiatric ward or jail.

The exact process of how to determine which evaluation to not made clear in the report.

FILED UNDER: Europe, World Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Herb says:

    There is a guy in a ski mask pointing a gun at me right over there ——————>

    Freaky, man….

  2. legion says:

    Maybe Doug can explain the legal concepts behind this… but since nobody (including Breivik himself) denies he did this, what’s really left to determine? I mean, it’s quite apparent that, sane or not, this is a man who can never be outside custody again, ever. Crazy or not, there’s every reason to believe he’d do the same thing again. And even if you could somehow guarantee he wouldn’t, he’d be a constant source of social disruption – either as a target for the victims or an inspiration for people just as damaged.

    Is this really just a show to determine whether he spends the rest of his life in a prison or an institution?

  3. Tillman says:

    Is this really just a show to determine whether he spends the rest of his life in a prison or an institution?

    I would say Norwegian culture’s on trial.

  4. walt moffett says:

    @legion: From reading this Library of Congress report, it seems to me that Norway tries very hard to avoid the “uncivilized” lock him up and toss the key approach. Yet, the public opinion is opposed.

    Though ponder this if found insane and committed, what happens when his physicians decide he is cured? Do civilized nations keep the healthy locked up? That there will be social disruption is a given, however, isn’t the duty of the State to protect his rights and keep the peace?

    Same would apply if convicted and after serving his minimum 25-30 years and released as no longer dangerous. Assumption here is that he has either learned to play the game or who knows maybe the horse did learn to sing.

  5. We have a messed up idea of criminality and insanity, pretending that they are alternatives rather than overlapping sets. In the best of all worlds we’d identify the merely criminal, the merely insane, and the criminally insane. The first would get jail, the second would get treatment, and the last would be institutionalized, probably for life.

    I don’t care whether the guards where white or gray, just that Manson never, ever, gets out.

  6. @walt moffett:

    There have been some interesting cases where “normal guys” suddenly developed violent and/or sexual misbehaviors, and then were found to have brain tumors. Their tumors were removed, and the patient was believed cured. In at least one case I heard that the compulsion returned, and a tumor was found to have returned as well.

    I don’t think we’ve really processed things like this, and still think in terms of Freud, talking cures, and (crazy) psychologists who want to let killers free.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if most people in federal prison have some kind of organic brain disorder … which at least complicates ideas of crime and punishment.

  7. walt moffett says:

    @john personna: Ultimately, the question boils down to, what is evil and what do we do about it?