Murder or Madness? Ohio Woman Arrested For Trying To Hire Hitman To Kill Random Fur Wearer

Meredith Lowell, 27,has been arrested in a rather bizarre alleged murder plot: to randomly kill a fur wearer. Lowell was charged with soliciting a hit man to shoot a stranger — justifying the hit was akin to liberating people from Nazi concentration camps.

The details of the conspiracy, however, raise serious question about Lowell’s sanity. The FBI set up Lowell after reading a Facebook page Lowell created under the alias Anne Lowery that offered from $830 to $850 for the hit. When an agent contacted her, she said she would pay in jewelry or cash and that the victim should be at least 12 years but “preferably 14 years old or older” outside a library near a playground in her hometown. She added “You need to bring a gun that has a silencer on it and that can be easily concealed in your pants pocket or coat. … If you do not want to risk the possibility of getting caught with a gun before the job, bring a sharp knife that is (at least) 4 inches long, it should be sharp enough to stab someone and/or slit their throat to kill them. I want the person to be dead in less than 2 minutes.” Her ravings include criticism of the new aquarium in Cleveland.

The question is whether the FBI snared a murderer and a mad women. The problem is that states have so limited the insanity defense that Lowell might be effectively barred from using it — as discussed in this column. Ohio is one of the states that curtailed insanity to eliminate many such claims where a person may be able to tell right from wrong. Here is the standard:

R.C. 2901.01(A)(14) — “A person is ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ relative to a charge of an offense only if
the person proves, in the manner specified in section 2901.05 of the Revised Code (i.e. by a preponderance of the evidence), that at the time of the commission of the offense, the person did not know, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, the wrongfulness of the person’s acts.”

The standard sets a very low standard for sanity. When a person is fully functional and aware that she committing a crime (such as hiring a hitman) it is hard to make an insane claim despite the views of many doctors that the person is mentally ill. In this case, Lowell’s asking for a child to be knifed in a matter of minutes does not seem to signify a sound mind or even a serious threat.

What do you think?

Source: CNN

32 thoughts on “Murder or Madness? Ohio Woman Arrested For Trying To Hire Hitman To Kill Random Fur Wearer”

  1. Fur wearing, Nazi concentration camps, aquariums & posting a murder-for-hire ad on Facebook? Yeah, it’s obvious this lady is beyond insane. Because none of it makes sense! Most criminals at least try to keep things on the down low. She probably has a long history of mental health issues that require meds. And perhaps she stopped taking her meds for some reason. Those things will certainly matter to any jury anywhere. She clearly belongs in a mental hospital. And I trust the mental professionals to know and decide if and when she is ready to safely rejoin society.

  2. One other thing. Some people conflate insanity or major mental disorder/illness with stupidity. They are not the same thing. One can function well in one area and be non-functional in another. We have at least one person who posts on this blog intermittently, who admits to being seriously autistic, but has a Ph.D. and professional license to practice in a highly technical field.

    Dr. John Nash won the Nobel Prize in mathematics, despite being paranoid schizophrenic.

  3. I have thus far refrained from commenting in this thread, but Gene’s post above hit the mark, along with several other commenters. I do not do long-distance diagnoses, and so will not comment on the merits–or lack of them–of the case instant.

    Insanity is a legal term, not a psychiatric or psychological term. The mental health professional who is called on to aid the court is hamstrung by trying to force fit a mental illness into the square hole of the legal definition. Based on my own experience, only about one in seven floridly psychotic schizophrenics could be found legally insane, due to one or another quirk in the law as well as the nature of the illness. For example, if the paranoid schizophrenic in a delusional state shoots and kills the suspected cheating spouse, he is probably not legally insane. The reason? If a spouse is cheating, even a schizophrenic knows, or should know, that divorce is preferable to murder. Then when the schizophrenic gets to prison, they tend to get either no treatment or minimal treatment.

    Another problem is that juries tend to disbelieve doctors who find the mentally ill person to meet the mufti-pronged tests for insanity. Of course, the forensic psychologist or psychiatrist is not allowed to opine on the insanity issue, since that gets into telling the trier of fact how to decide the case. I have my own protocol for explaining how the person does or does not fit each of the several tests that must be met in order to be found insane; that is, to explain the decision making algorithm.

    Funny thing, in my personal experience they appear to prefer believing people like Dr. Steve Hayne, whom we discussed the other day, or police serologist Fred Zain.

    On Fred Zain:

    On Dr. Steve Hayne:

    1. My original comment was brief but with greater implications than the subject at hand. Gene’s followup and a whole bunch of others, down to OS’ contributions expanded the parameters considerably and added to our understanding of what the law is ad also how slippery the testimony of experts at trial can be. Unfortunately, the explanations couldn’t answer my basic question of what do we do with them? This was not due to lack of insight and/or expertise. It is because our whole criminal justice system fall far below the standards of justice aspired to by the Founding Fathers.

      I think that Tony C., LK and Rich helped this discussion along by supplying guiding standards for incarceration and the need for treatment. However, this question ultimately morphs into the much larger issue of what is wrong with American criminal justice and can it be fixed. I focus on America, although from my knowledge our system is a good as any in the world, simply because most of us live here.

      To me the true purpose of criminal law should be protection of society from those who would harm others in the pursuit of their own selfish ends. I believe though, that if polled, the overwhelming majority of Americans would say the purpose of criminal law is to punish perpetrators. It is that emphasis on punishment that set the system in the wrong direction. My guess as to its origins are the use of biblical exhortations, framing judicial systems in religious terms and the overly broad concept of “sin”. I think that with their enlightened mindset the “Founding Fathers” tried to establish our system as one of protection, but the realities of the people’s desire for the illusory relief of outraged tension via punishment (revenge?) overcame considerations of justice.

      Having punishment as the main objective leads to over zealous police work, vengeful prosecutions and a judicial system where rights are trampled in favor of the quick relief of expediency. I’ve long been a viewer of criminal reality shows like “48 Hours Mystery”. I find myself amazed by the fact that the family’s of murder victims will sit through long months of trial, convinced by police of some perpetrator’s guilt, in order to see justice done via a conviction.

      Having experienced dealing with the grief of the death of loved ones and close friends, the cause of death was low on my personal list of needs for going through the terrible morning process. Psychologically it is very easy to believe that by projecting one’s anger/grief on a “guilty” party, you ease your own pain, I don’t buy it. Death is a permanent loss and if of someone you love dearly creates an emptiness that can ever be filled, but can be dealt with enough to go on with life. The accomplishment of revenge gives but temporary and unsatisfying respite from the angst of personal loss.

      Yet it is this revenge/punishment mentality that drives the criminal justice system. If punishment is indeed revenge than it becomes important for incarceration to be highly unpleasant, if not tortuous. From it comes a legal system made up of self-righteous individuals who when they focus on a particular suspect(s) guilt will use any means legal and/or illegal to ensure that punishment is inflicted.

      To me personally seeing crimes from a psychological viewpoint, many violent crimes are unnecessary and committed by psychologically unstable individuals. The spouse who kills the other spouse, when divorce is a viable alternative is psychologically damaged, even though in legal terms not insane.

      I still remain without a definitive answer, though recognizing that our whole system of what is crime and what do we do about it, is fundamentally flawed. Tony C. though at least established a possible framework for addressing this:

      “I would much prefer that incarceration be just a restriction on interacting freely when one has demonstrated an inability to interact freely without causing others harm.”

  4. “Gene, Thanks for the posting, it was a good explanation of the varying degrees of murder to illustrate the concept of various jurisdictional inconsistencies in allowing insanity/diminished capacity claims. Jurisdictional inconsistency is a problem in that some states are insanity plea friendly and some are not, that doesn’t serve justice as a national endeavor to my mind. The whole issue is slippery, one can know that It what they are doing is “wrong” but be compelled by their illness to continue.

    ” It won’t be addressed as long as we keep moving to privatized prisons getting paid by the full bed.”

    Right. I posted a link on some other thread about a prison maintenance company that offered their services to 48 states to manage all of the individual states prisons, with a minimum 90% capacity, for $250 million a year.

  5. LK,

    The law has somewhat of a quandary on its hands in dealing with the insane. The threshold for legal insanity is admittedly an arbitrary line, but it’s an arbitrary line drawn at an important legal concept: mens rea or guilty mind. It is not enough just to have a guilty mind, there must be some action taken in furtherance of the thought. This is called actus reus or guilty act. One or both must be present for a crime to have been committed. In the cases of civil law, mens rea is usually irrelevant to the charge of a tort or breach, but it can be important in determining the scope of liability and damages.

    Now when discussing crime, mens rea and actus reus have a much more critical role to play. They are key to not only scope of liability but to the actual nature of the charge (which in turn impacts potential penalties). Take for example prosecuting homicide (used in the broadest sense of the term as a human killing another human). Even without sanity issues, the law recognizes different forms of the crime and they are all based on mens reas. For the most severe end of the spectrum, we consider those who deliberately plan to kill another person guilty of murder in the first degree (sometimes called capital murder in jurisdictions with the death penalty and the terminology will vary across jurisdictions although all of the terms I mention will have an analog charge). This also encompasses the idea of felony murder – a death that happens during the commission of another crime. The planning of the other crime is considered equivalent of the mens rea of planning a homicide proper. A step down from that is murder in the second degree where there is no planning in advance; a lesser degree of intent is evidenced. Next is voluntary manslaughter – a homicide committed in the heat of the moment under conditions that “would cause a reasonable person to become emotionally or mentally disturbed.” Now what is the difference between this and second degree murder you might ask? A bar fight that results in a death is second degree murder certainly. A bar fight that results in a death but was started by the discovery of an infidelity? That could be voluntary manslaughter. It’s a mitigation created by the state of mind of the perpetrator, so again, mens rea plays a role. The next step down would be involuntary manslaughter (sometimes called negligent homicide) such as a death resulting from a drunk driving accident. There was no intent to kill, but criminal negligence resulted in death anyway.

    That illustration is simply a long way of getting to the point that legal insanity really has no other proper definition than the ability of the defendant to understand whether his/her actions were right or wrong. You can’t place the bar anywhere else that makes sense in evaluating the elements of a crime. Your statement “[i]t all seems to boil down to the inability of the society to determine the way we want mentally ill people to be treated under the law when their insanity contributes or caused law-breaking and treatment may not be fully successful” I think comes from the fact that how guilty but insane defendants are punished across various jurisdictions. For example, some state recognize a pleas of guilty but insane or guilty with diminished capacity, but some do not. If the person knew right from wrong, they are guilty and there is no mitigation. This is one reason why prisons are full of the mentally ill who would better be served in a hospital setting (albeit a penal hospital setting).

    No matter, it is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. One thing is for certain though. It won’t be addressed as long as we keep moving to privatized prisons getting paid by the full bed.

  6. Crazy eyes.

    Even if she is legally sane I think there is a problem with the legal definition of insanity. Jeffery Dahmer was clinically insane but not legally insane- that tells me the law is messed up in a fundamental manner. It all seems to boil down to the inability of the society to determine the way we want mentally ill people to be treated under the law when their insanity contributes or caused law-breaking and treatment may not be fully successful.

    The problem is that if the treatment isn’t successful the society has to confront a whole new category of prisoner that could never be safely released though their crimes might be relatively ‘mild’. On occasion it is of benefit to society to have an ‘out’ built into the law so people can be incarcerated for long periods when the alternative is treatment that may not be fully successful but appears to be successful enough that they could be released from a hospital setting.

    IMO she needs to be removed from society so she doesn’t hurt anyone and treated for her illness.

  7. Not legally insane, definitely not. She sounds culpable. She knew the repercussions (“if you do not want to get caught”), therefore knew the wrongness of her actions. Just because someone has serious mental health issues does not make them inculpable. Wouldn’t anybody who killed another person be considered crazy by most standards?

    Even if the insanity defense worked, it’s not like it would set her free; it would simply move her sentence to a psychiatric hospital.

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