||The Cradle Will Fall
||Carl S. Burak & Michelle G. Remington
||Donald I. Fine, Inc., ©1994
Donald I. Fine, Inc.
19 West 21st Street
New York, NY 10010
This 214-page book, consisting of 42 chapters and an epilogue, is an account
of a woman who killed her newborn child, unsuccessfully attempted suicide, and
was tried for murder. Carl Burak is a psychiatrist and attorney and Michelle
Remington is his patient. Remington was found temporarily insane and acquitted. The
authors maintain that some 5 million women experience postpartum depression but
give no indication of where this figure comes from.
The book provides a long and detailed description of the trial in which the
mother's experts diagnosed her as depressed and not responsible. Her prenatal
care bordered on medical neglect and, after the murder, she was condemned by
medical personnel and her community. The mother claimed she heard a voice in her
head to get her gun and "do it" (p. 90). The judge (this was a bench
trial), after acquitting her by reason of temporary insanity, ordered outpatient
treatment despite the recommendation of experts.
Postpartum depression is difficult to define since it covers a wide variety
of changed and disturbed behaviors, ranging from tears and sadness to suicidal
and homicidal feelings. A small percentage of women develop psychotic symptoms,
including delusions and hallucinations, and may threaten to or actually injure
their child. Williamson (1993), in a discussion of postpartum depression as a
defense to criminal behavior, including infanticide, observes that, "While
there is general agreement that such a condition does exist postpartum, there is
no definitive agreement as to its cause" (p. 163). There are a number of
different theories. Williamson also notes that much of the medical community in
the United States refuses to accept postpartum depression as a psychiatric
illness. These problems with a claimed postpartum depression syndrome trouble
the court in this case.
This book provides an interesting account of one such case and the response
to it by the justice system.
Williamson, G.L. (1993) Postpartum depression syndrome as a defense
to criminal behavior.
Journal of Family Violence, 8, 151-165.
Reviewed by LeRoy G. Schultz, Professor Emeritus of Social Work,
West Virginia University.