Psychiatrist Kenneth Kool may have used the jargon of his profession, but you got the point: Gary Heidnik is delusional, he testified. And psychotic. And possessed of an unbalanced perception of reality. “I’m of the opinion,” he added, “that Gary Heidnik is not sane and has not been so over the years. Plus,” Kool tossed in almost gratuitously, “Heidnik’s lifestyle is bizarre and regressed.”

Psychiatrist Robert Sadoff was equally obdurate. “Maybe he has a major mental illness,” he opined, “but the evidence indicates he was not so deprived of his reason that he did not know the nature and quality of his acts.”

The two experts—both vastly experienced, both impressively credentialed—were testifying in a murder trial in a Philadelphia courtroom this summer. Not just any murder trial, this was an inquiry into one of the most hideous series of crimes this decade. Defendant Heidnik had kidnapped six women, held them...

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