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Frankenstein’s monster should not answer for his crimes

Note: This is the first post in a two-part series in which Tribune reporters Michael McFall and Jim Dalrymple II argue over the mental competency of Frankenstein’s monster. The debate uses the version of the monster depicted in the 1931 film directed by James Whale and starring the inimitable Boris Karloff. Check out McFall’s previous post to see just what crimes the monster committed, and come back tomorrow for Dalrymple’s rebuttal.

First, I argue against any reference to my client as "the monster" or "Frankenstein’s monster," as this would unfairly bias any jury against him. Instead, I would ask that the court refer to my defendant simply as that: "the defendant."

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He is obviously incompetent to stand trial for the deaths of Fritz, Dr. Waldman and the young Maria. Heinrich Frankenstein may have created the defendant with an adult brain, but the states exhibits clearly show that this was dead tissue, jarred in preservatives, that was surgically implanted in another adult male’s cranium in an old windmill and shocked to activity by lightning.

Until a credited physician is allowed to evaluate the defendant, we have no way to know what trauma the defendant’s brain might have sustained in these procedures — trauma that could well be the cause of my client’s incompetency.

On top of that, the defendant exhibits a clear lack of rational understanding. Dusky v. United States, a landmark competency case, ruled that a defendant must have a sufficient ability to consult with his or her attorney. Not only does my defendant not demonstrate an ability to speak, his "grunts" and physical gestures are of the most rudimentary variety, and childlike at best. This limited ability to communicate suggests either that the brain was incompetent to begin with, or that trauma sustained from a likely 50,000-degree lightning bolt has made it so.

The second significant element of Dusky v. United States holds that the defendant must have a reasonable understanding of the charges pressed against him. Seeing as how the defendant has not demonstrated any ability to understand Frankenstein’s commands, it is fair to assume that the monster is incapable of understanding the greater complexities of the legal system.

I ask that this court find the defendant incompetent to stand trial, or at least hold off on a ruling until a full examination of his brain can be completed.

— Michael McFall



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