Lauren Dickason Trial: Prosecution and defence battle over insanity and infanticide grounds

Picture: Supplied

Picture: Supplied

Published Aug 1, 2023


Warning: This story contains graphic details and may be triggering to some readers.

The trial of Lauren Dickason, the South African woman accused of murdering her three daughters, continues to make headlines, with both the prosecution and defence arguing whether she should be found not guilty on the grounds of insanity and infanticide.

Here is what we know so far:

The Defence's Argument:

The defence enlisted the support of renowned author and expert clinical psychologist Dr. Susan Hatters-Friedman to testify that Lauren suffered from major depression and post-partum depression, leading to the killing of her three daughters, Maya, Karla, and Liane, on September 16, 2021.

Dr. Hatters-Friedman, who interviewed Lauren and her husband Graham, observed that Lauren's depression had worsened significantly, and she developed psychotic features shortly before the killings.

She concluded that Lauren believed she was removing her children from an unsafe environment as she saw through her depressed psychotic state. This notion could lead to Lauren being considered not guilty by reason of insanity.

The Prosecution's Argument:

The prosecution's expert witness, Dr. Erik Monasterio, with 24 years of experience as a psychiatric consultant, argued that post-partum depression could not be a factor in the case since Lauren's depression began in her teenage years. Monasterio emphasized that Lauren undoubtedly suffered from major depressive disorder, but it was not connected to childbirth.

He stated, “In my opinion, there is no evidence that the defendant has an infanticide defense available. As the defendant maintained awareness and behaved systematically, there is no evidence she did not understand the consequence of the actions at the material time.”

The Legal Context:

In New Zealand, where the trial is being held, the legal system allows for a child to be up to 10 years old for a defence to use the infanticide argument. In contrast, South Africa and other countries only allow for a defence up until the child is one year old. In the United States, where Dr. Hatters-Friedman is from, there is no charge or defence against infanticide.

If found guilty of infanticide in New Zealand, the maximum penalty is three years' imprisonment, with no presumptive sentence. This information is provided on the New Zealand government website.

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Are you or someone you know affected by mental health? If so here are some important numbers:

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group's 24-hour mental health helpline: 080-045-6789.

The SA Federation for Mental Health: 011-781-1852.