Not Guilty by Reason of Tourette’s?

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A Florida woman whose previous claim to fame was that she had hiccups for five weeks straight in 2007 is now getting another 15 minutes by (potentially) asserting Tourette’s syndrome as a defense to first-degree murder charges.

Jennifer Mee, 19, allegedly lured a 22-year-old man to a meeting at which he was robbed and then shot, although two other people were involved and police said they do not think she shot the victim. Presumably Mee was charged with felony-murder, which would make her just as liable as whoever pulled the trigger. But Mee’s lawyer, John Trevena, said today that his client has been diagnosed with Tourette’s syndrome, probably the best-known neurological disorder because it sometimes causes sufferers to swear uncontrollably. According to Trevena, “hiccups are a symptom of Tourette’s,” which is interesting but the question here, I think, is more whether felony-murder is a symptom of Tourette’s. On that topic, the report says, Trevena “declined to be more specific.”

Tourette’s is apparently a very complex disorder that may cause many kinds of verbal and physical “tics,” only rarely resulting in uncontrollable swearing. A very non-exhaustive search by me did not turn up any association between Tourette’s and hiccups except a 2008 report in which Mee’s own neurologist made the link, but this is entirely possible. Interestingly, these sources say that the severity of symptoms almost always decreases during adolescence, and extreme cases in adulthood (Mee is now 19) are rare. Tourette’s can occur together with other disorders, too, and maybe one of those will provide a better defense here.

Let me suggest a better candidate for the Tourette’s defense: Charlie Sheen, who is reportedly under psychiatric evaluation after an unidentified woman called police to say he was yelling and throwing furniture around a New York hotel room. You might say this is actually an improvement for Charlie compared to previous incidents, given that so far as I can tell he is not actually accused of assaulting any women this time.

According to an official, Sheen appeared “highly intoxicated” when police arrived at 2 a.m., but Sheen’s publicist said that was a misunderstanding. “Charlie had an adverse allergic reaction to some medication,” he said, although he didn’t say which medication may cause furniture-throwing as a side effect. I assume he just hasn’t heard about the Tourette’s syndrome defense yet, which I think is a much better fit for Charlie.