ARNOLD, Associate Justice.
The appellant was convicted of rape. He appeals on the sole ground that the record discloses such substantial doubt of his sanity that the verdict should be set aside. It appears that for years prior to the crime defendant was suffering from mental disease and was an abnormal psychopathic personality. In 1940 he was held in Gallinger Hospital for mental observation. Later he was confined in the United States Medical Center for Federal Prisoners as a mental case. In the fall of 1943 he was again committed to Gallinger Hospital as a mental patient. He was released, not as recovered, but in the custody of his mother with directions for the treatment of the mental disorders from which he was suffering. Some months after this release he raped two women on the same day.
At the trial two psychiatrists, one on the
In a criminal trial where insanity is put in issue, the burden is on the accused to overcome the presumption of sanity by evidence sufficient to create a reasonable doubt as to his mental capacity to commit the offense.
Had there been an equivalent conflict of testimony about the actual commission of the offense it might well be that the verdict could not stand. But the issue of the criminal responsibility of a defendant suffering from mental disease is not an issue of fact in the same sense as the commission of the offense. The ordinary test of criminal responsibility is whether defendant could tell right from wrong.
The modern science of psychology is concerned with diagnosis and therapeutics and not with moral judgments. It proceeds on an entirely different set of assumptions, It does not conceive that there is a separate little man in the top of one's head called reason whose function it is to guide another unruly little man called instinct, emotion, or impulse in the way he should go. The tendency of psychiatry is to regard what ordinary men call reasoning as a rationalization of behavior rather than the real cause of behavior. From this point of view psychiatrists probe behind what ordinary men call the "reasoning" of an abnormal personality. This tends to restrict the area of moral judgment to an extent that offends our traditional idea that an offender who can talk and think in rational terms is morally responsible for what he does.
And so it is that when psychiatrists attempt on the witness stand to reconcile the therapeutic standards of their own art with the moral judgment of the criminal law they become confused. Thus it is common to find groups of distinguished scientists of the mind testifying on both sides and in all directions with positiveness and conviction. This is not because they are unreliable or because those who testify on one side are more skillful or learned than those who testify on the other. It is rather because to the psychiatrist mental cases are a series of imperceptible gradations from the mild psychopath to the extreme psychotic, whereas criminal law allows for no gradations. It requires a final decisive moral judgment of the culpability of the accused. For the purposes of conviction there is no twilight zone between abnormality and insanity. An offender is wholly sane or wholly insane.
A complete reconciliation between the medical tests of insanity and the moral tests of criminal responsibility is impossible. The purposes are different; the assumptions behind the two standards are different. For that reason the principal function of a psychiatrist who testifies on the mental state of an abnormal offender is to inform the jury of the character of his mental disease. The psychiatrist's moral judgment reached on the basis of his observations is relevant. But it cannot bind the jury except within broad limits. To command respect criminal law must not offend against the common belief that men who talk rationally are in most cases morally responsible for what they do.
The institution which applies our inherited ideas of moral responsibility to individuals prosecuted for crime is a jury of ordinary men. These men must be told that in order to convict they should have no reasonable doubt of the defendant's sanity. After they have declared by their verdict that they have no such doubt their judgment should not be disturbed on the ground it is contrary to expert psychiatric opinion. Psychiatry offers us no standard for measuring the validity of the jury's moral judgment as to culpability. To justify a reversal circumstances must be such that the verdict shocks the conscience of the court.