Nonfiction - True Crime

Nobody’s Child: A Tragedy, a Trial, and a History of the Insanity Defense by Susan Vinocour

Check out if you’re interested in complex court cases as well as mental health advocacy.

From a pay phone in an impoverished area of a big city, 911 is called and a voice pleadingly says, “My baby… my little grandbaby, he fell.” Police arrive to find the body of a malnourished child, apparently dead more than a day. Suddenly, a woman with no prior police involvement is indicted for murdering her 3-year-old grandson.

Nobody’s Child is written from the vast knowledge and experience of Susan Vinocour, the forensic psychologist who was asked by the courts to evaluate Dorothy Dunn’s (pseudonym) state of mind during the time her grandson died. She discovered that Dunn was not malicious in her intentions, but simply not competent enough to know that her grandchild needed medical attention.

Vinocour demonstrates how the psychological definition of insanity has changed over the decades with the evolving understanding of human behavior and how the court system seems to cling to the archaic definition of insanity to suit their agenda of putting mentally ill perpetrators in prison.

The author also touches on the subject of the rising need for social workers who can provide resources for those living in extreme poverty and the required revamp of the American foster care system.

Readers will appreciate this heartbreaking book for its informative as well as emotionally provoking script. Nobody’s Child is recommended for those who are interested in Law-and-Order-type cases.