SERIAL SENTENCING OF AMERICA'S MENTAL MONSTER: THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM'S CAPITAL PUNISHMENT OF THE 'FIRST' FEMALE SERIAL KILLER
This senior thesis explores the issues underlying the relationship between mental health policy and the criminal justice system in a study of the capital case of America’s “first” female serial killer—Aileen Wuornos, who was convicted of six capital crimes and subsequently executed on October 9, 2002. As a woman suffering from multiple mental health issues, Wuornos’ case study provides a lens into the larger issue of integrating psychological research into law. Through examining the context of the case in the latter part of the 20th century, it is clear the American landscape’s context influenced a sensationalized media frenzy of Wuornos’ case. The 1980s-1990s experienced cultural and political shifts influencing the treatment of the mentally ill within the criminal justice system: (1) the cultural consumption of media, (2) political platforms of “crime and punishment,” and (3) contraction of prisoner rights in the correctional system complex. In surveying cultural representations of Wuornos’ case, the author situates this case study within the crime trends of the time period using an interdisciplinary method of connecting psychological research and legal standards. A key finding emerged from this research: there are mechanisms influencing and within the criminal justice system that limit the incorporation of mental health policy.
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