Kipland Kinkel a 15 year old teenager killed his parents at their home in Oregon in 1998, and later went to the cafeteria of Springfield Thurston high school and went on a shooting spree, killing two and injuring 25 students. Kinkel was sentenced to spend around 112 years in prison without any option of parole. Kinkel was suspected to be a paranoid schizophrenic, the brain harm in Kinkel’s case was supposed to be due to genetic disorders.
Kinkel’s mother’s family was also found to have a history of mental illnesses.
After a detailed study of this case, the competencies that are of utmost interest to this case are,
The mental state of Kinkel
The history of mental illnesses in Kinkel’s family
His relationship with his father
His interest in guns and bombs
High educational expectations form his parents
The effect of the anti-depressants he was taking.
All the above-mentioned points must have directly or indirectly influenced Kinkel to do what he did. Increased pressure on the brain of any person and especially a teenager is bound to give negative results. This is what made Kinkel go on a shooting spree.
Juveniles with a history of mental illnesses like schizophrenia and ADHD are more inclined to commit certain offenses like robbery, stealing vehicles, drugs etc. The main features of the case, which will be important in the legal point of view, are
Kinkel was a paranoid schizophrenic
He had a slow psychological development
Was taking medicines for his mental condition
‘Not guilty by reason of insanity’ then he would be sent to a mental hospital
Some of the main psychological conditions which influenced Kinkel, were that he was a schizophrenic, his mother also suspected him of having attention deficit disorder (ADHD). His family had a history of mental illnesses, it was learned that his mother also used anti-depressants, and at least nine of his other family members have mental illnesses. All this might also show a link to a genetic disorder. As a child he was a slow learner who was emotional and hyperactive. Kinkel had a mental problem, which damaged his brain, and there was also talk about holes in his brain. Kinkel also said he heard voices, which made him do this.
Psychological disorders can be due to genetic inheritance, which can be traced back to nearly three generations, and Kinkel’s family on both his parents’ sides had a history of mental disorders. All these psychological factors will definitely have an effect on the behavior and capabilities of Kinkel, and this is what happened to him. He was mentally depressed and in a psychotic state when he committed the offense.
To improve the mental state of Kinkel, I think he should be given the necessary medications to control his depression and anger. If he is not given medicines, there are chances of him to repeat the offense again during his trial on his co-mates. He should be given a chance to vent out his feelings, so that he can think straight. By not taking medicines, he might be constantly remembering the same incident again and again, which might increase the feelings of depression in him and subsequently result in further brain damage.
By taking medicines during his trial, he can slowly improve his mental condition and reduce his anger. And there are chances of him to be totally get rid of his depression, which will give him a new lease of life, and there will be a meaning to his life also. Juveniles are not grown ups and their psychological and mental condition is also not totally developed, they don’t have the maturity that adults have, due to which they are bound to commit offenses. At the same time they have to be given a chance to prove themselves, even if it is when they are under trial. So taking medicines to improve their condition is definitely advisable for juveniles.
In Kinkel’s case, the main points that the defense should try to highlight are
His mental illness
His juvenile status
The use of medicines for depression
Not guilty by reason of insanity
The defense should handle the case very tactfully by highlighting the aspects that are advantageous to Kinkel. They should stress on the mental condition of the defendant at the time he committed the offense. The cognitive development of a juvenile should also be considered, as children cannot differentiate between what is right and what is wrong, as they are immature. The other point that the defense can argue is the history of mental illnesses in Kinkel’s family, which could have developed a genetic disorder in him, the reason for his mental condition. The two main points that the defense can lobby for are Kinkel’s mental condition and his juvenile status.
Kipland Kinkel was and is guilty for the murder of his parents and two of his fellow students, and according to the nation he should be severely punished. But the fact that he is a juvenile should be considered, as children are different from adults, and they are not mature enough to decide what is right.
Also considering the fact that he was a paranoid schizophrenic, he should be given a chance to take proper medication for his mental condition and overall well being. He should be sent to a rehabilitation center, to take proper treatment for his psychological disorders. Everybody does mistakes, after all it is human nature to go wrong at a certain point, but the greatness lies in forgiving a person and giving him a chance to mend his ways.
Kip Kinkel committed this offense, but he was not mature enough to understand what he was doing at that time, he had sort of gone blank, and he was not in a state to judge what was right and wrong. He must be given an opportunity to take suitable treatment for his psychological development.
Ellis Swanson, ‘”Killers Start Sad and Crazy” Mental Illness and the Betrayal of
Kipland Kinkel’, Oregon Law Review, Retrieved 13 June, 2007, http://www.law.uoregon.edu/org/olr/archives/79/79olr1081.pdf
Jeff Barnard, ‘Oregon school shooting suspect describes killing on videotape’, Court TV Online, Retrieved 13 June 2007
Rusty Dornin, ‘Oregon school shooter showed signs of mental disease’, CNN.com,
Retrieved 13 June 2007