The Detroit Free-Press is reporting that Shontelle Cavanaugh, a mother who committed infanticide while suffering from postpartum psychosis, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
"A jury today found a former honor student at Oakland University not guilty by reason of insanity in the smothering death of her 9-month-old baby nearly five years ago.
Shontelle Cavanaugh, 28, smiled, and her family wept as the jurors announced their decision, finding her not guilty of second-degree murder. Cavanaugh, who had been diagnosed with postpartum depression at the time she smothered Simone Cavanaugh, will be sent to the state Center for Forensic Psychiatry where she will be evaluated by doctors.
Her attorney, Richard Convertino, said he would seek her immediate release … Convertino argued that Cavanaugh, who had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder [which is a serious risk factor for postpartum psychosis], was insane at the time …"
Diana Lynn Barnes testified on Shontelle's behalf. Diana is a past president of Postpartum Support International, a forensic expert on cases such as these, and the author of "TheJourney to Parenthood."
Now. Let's be clear. A life was lost here. Tragically. I am not condoning that. I don't celebrate it. I don't take it lightly. I'm horrified by it. But what horrifies me the most is that women who are suffering from postpartum psychosis would not receive the care they deserve and must have — the kind of care that would prevent such things from ever happening in the first place. These women are at the mercy of a very serious illness.
As I was quoted in a recent storyon the HoustonPress' website regarding another recent tragedyin Texas:
Katherine Stone, an award-winning advocate and blogger on the subject of perinatal mood disorders, says she doesn't know all the facts about the Modarresi case, but when Hair Balls brought the Modarresi story to her attention, she steered us to the following information from the Postpartum Support International's web site:
It must be understood that a woman in a postpartum psychosis might understand the concept of right and wrong according to the law of the land, but at the same time might be hearing commands that she fully believes to arise from a higher and more powerful authority. These delusions are extremely powerful and she may feel compelled to follow instructions as if everything depended on her actions.
… (Her discussion of the symptoms of post-partum psychosis in "plain mama English" is a must-read.)
I know it's very hard for people who've never been psychotic to understand. It's hard for me to understand. But it is possible for people to commit heinous acts while driven by psychosis, acts that they would never otherwise commit. Until we can ensure that all women with postpartum psychosis are protected and treated byhealthcare professionalswho know what they are doing, these tragedies will continue to happen. I'm glad the jury recognized that Shontelle was truly ill.