The Eliot Spitzer scandal is difficult for many rational people to understand. How could he have been so careless? The real question should be: What is the psychological pathology that caused this self destructive behavior? Like many crimes of morality, the pathology of the brain is usually the last suspect. In this case, there is no other rational answer. Elliot Spitzer is a sex addict who cannot control his sex drive. Much like a drug addict, he really has no choice. This condition is sometimes called "irresistible impulse" that was the topic of the 1959 movie, ANATOMY OF A MURDER.
The film Anatomy of a Murder (1959) is probably the finest pure trial movie ever made. The film is based on a powerful 1958 novel by Robert Traver. It centers on a gripping small-town murder trial of Lieutenant Manion (Ben Gazzara). Manion clearly gunned down Barney Quill in Quill’s bar. But why did he do it?
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The film is loaded with fascinating legal issues, such as the validity and applicability of the irresistible impulse version of the insanity defense. Defense lawyer Paul Biegler (Jimmy Stewart in an unforgettable portrayal) would rather be catching trout. He claims it happened because Manion was seized by an irresistible impulse–he just found out that Quill had raped Laura after picking her up in the bar. The defense psychiatrist is asked whether Manion was capable of understanding right from wrong. The psychiatrist states clearly that the issue of right and wrong is never contemplated by one who is in the grip of irresistible impulse or dissociative reaction.
Manion is acquitted in the movie. Otto Preminger, the director, knew this movie would be controversial because it dealt with sexuality, violence, and language never before shown in previous 1st tier Hollywood movies. The issues raise in this movie questioned the social values of that period in American culture. Since that time the subject of sexuality has been broadened primarily because of the events in the 60s that has been described as "the sexual revolution." The feminist movement has also been an important factor in dealing more honestly with sexuality. That has not been the case for crime and punishment in this country.
The United States has developed a cottage industry for the penal system. There are more people incarcerated in this country per capita than any other nation. Close to half of the prisoners have committed non-violent crimes. Many are suffering from severe psychological disorders that are undiagnosed. Some of these prisoners suffer from irresistible impulse and need psychiatric help. Spitzer may well be the next victim of our penal system.
There is no question that Spitzer should resign and get the help he needs to treat this problem. He is a sexual addict and cannot control his behavior. The irresistible impulse prevents him from rational contemplation of the consequences of his actions. He needs rehabilitation, not incarceration.
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