Insanity: Murder, Madness, and the Law

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Stone, ed. White, Cal. The political turmoil surrounding this case culminated in the California legislature's repeal of the diminished capacity defense.

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See Cal. The famed House of Lords discussion of his case and the problem of insanity also was preceded by public outrage when M'Naghten was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Times, June 23, , at B6, col. See Monahan , J.

Misconceptions About the Insanity Defense That Will Drive You Nuts! By Dr. Jeffrey Singer

It does occasionally happen that an individual found NGRI, due to mental state at the time of the offense, is found soon after conviction not to be presently mentally ill and is thereby released. The reaction to such cases is, not surprisingly, extreme. The Torsney case provoked a public reaction that resulted in changes in the state law. To avoid adverse public reaction, many jurisdictions have enacted automatic commitment procedures applicable upon a finding of NGRI, with length of commitment varying.

I , 98th Cong. Criminal Division. Both ldaho and Montana, e. Laws ch. City N. Herold, U. United States, U. The author would like to thank Brooklyn Law School for the generous support of its research stipend program. White, M. The insanity defense: Multidisciplinary views on its history, trends, and controversies. Skip to content. By Dr.


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Jeffrey Singer. May 30 Myth 1: The Insanity Defense is overused. Myth 2: It is easy to prove insanity. Myth 3: The insanity defense is used only in murder cases. Sources: Ewing, C.

Nate McClelland. Related Posts. Psychotherapy with a Side of Yoga By Dr. Hayley Hirschmann November 22, Stuart Leeds October 27, It was surprising, therefore, to learn that Ewing reports an even lower rate in his own practice.

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Insanity, contends Ewing, is used as a defense against various charges and, at times, the defense is uncontested, especially when a defendant is accused of committing a nonviolent offense. Although the media publicize homicide cases in which the insanity defense is proffered to mitigate the offense, homicide, explains the author, is prevalent in about one-third of insanity defense cases.

In the 10 cases presented, only Torsney and Yates were adjudicated insane. David Berkowitz rejected his attorneys' intent to raise the insanity defense. He and the seven other defendants were found guilty and sentenced to prison. Ewing correctly states that defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity frequently spend as much or more time confined in forensic mental health units or under strict court supervision than do those persons who have been found guilty of the same offense.

The case studies are of exceptionally heinous offenses that resulted in a battle of expert witnesses at trial. The author notes that in many of these cases, aggressive defense attorneys used insanity as a defense of last resort and in some cases, zealous prosecutors attempted to block an insanity verdict, despite strong evidence, by retaining an expert to refute defense counsel's position. Some of the expert testimony samples in this book are painful to read, especially when prominent experts attempt to support awkward opinions.

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Insanity Defense as a History of Mental Disorder - Oxford Handbooks

These cases are negatively viewed by the public and reinforce myths that expert witnesses are so-called hired guns who will support or refute the insanity defense based on other than scientific reasoning. In his epilogue, Ewing cogently categorizes some of the lessons to be learned from these cases.

He reminds the reader how challenging it is for juries to wade through technical and sometimes unintelligible testimony before it can render a verdict. He also offers his opinions about which cases resulted in verdicts that seem to fit or not fit the evidence presented. The highlight of this interesting, extensively referenced and readable book remains the fascinating cases that Ewing dissects in an illuminating fashion.