What does it mean when a woman commits a crime and attributes her actions to PMS? We revisit the first use of the "PMS defense," in this country, back in 1981. What have we learned about the science of PMS since then? Last year, the American Psychiatric Association classified a form of PMS (Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD) as a mental disorder in the DSM-V. How can the scientific community study severe premenstrual symptoms without perpetuating the utterly unscientific idea that menstruating women aren’t mentally competent or liable for crimes they commit?
Working as a reporter for a TV station in New Hampshire, Kevin Flynnwas covering the capture and arrest of a female serial killer namedSheila LaBarre. As he grew more and more obsessed with LaBarre'sstory, Flynn decided to write her a letter. She wrote back. Theircorrespondence became flirtatious, and eventually he went to visit herin person.
In March 1964, a 35-year-old African American woman named Johnnie MaeChappell was walking along the side of the road in Jacksonville,Florida. Four white men were driving around listening to the local raceriots on the radio. They had a gun on the dashboard. As they passedChappell, one of the men leaned out the car window and shot her todeath...
In 1977, a mild-mannered aeronautical engineer sideswiped a parked car in Compton, CA. When he stopped his car to survey the damage, a man opened the driver-side door, shoved him over, and started driving. He said, "I'm about to save your life."