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A research on insanity defense in trials

  • Indeed, as of this writing, Yates remains institutionalized in a mental hospital in Kerrville, Tex;
  • But only about 1 percent of those who use the insanity defense successfully are released immediately, and the average length of hospital stays for people let off because of insanity is about three years;
  • Ironically, she noted, prison inmates are the only Americans who enjoy a Constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment to health care — not that mentally ill prisoners necessarily receive appropriate care, Bard said;
  • M'Naghten, for instance, died after 20 years in a mental asylum.

October 24, 2002 Misconceptions muddle insanity defense debate, law lecturer says The debate over the insanity defense in the United States is clouded by public misconceptions — about mental illness itself, and about what happens to defendants acquitted by reason of insanity, according to attorney and University of Texas professor Jennifer S.

Bard, an assistant professor and research director at the Institute for the Medical Humanities at the University of Texas, delivered the third Mark A. Nordenberg Lecture in Law and Psychiatry.

Revisiting the insanity defense: contested or consensus?

Bard cited three other common myths about the insanity defense: Murder cases account for fewer than one-third of insanity defenses, Bard said. More often, Bard said, the insanity defense figures into trials for minor offenses such as shoplifting and assaulting a police officer — unfortunate but predictable occurrences when mentally ill offenders are repeatedly convicted and released, rather than being treated for the root causes of their anti-social behavior, argued Bard.

She cited studies from the 1990s revealing that 70,000 people with severe mental illnesses resided in U. Ironically, she noted, prison inmates are the only Americans who enjoy a Constitutional right under the Eighth Amendment forbidding cruel and unusual punishment to health care — not that mentally ill prisoners necessarily receive appropriate care, Bard said.

The Insanity Verdict on Trial

The key question in the insanity defense controversy, according to Bard, is this: Do Americans believe that individuals can be so mentally ill that they are not responsible for their actions? Not entirely, and certainly not in Texas.

  • Published online June 28, 2010;
  • Scale Construction and Validation;
  • Why do we need an insanity defense?
  • A Pennsylvania jury found millionaire John DuPont guilty but mentally ill last year in the murder of a wrestling coach;
  • Why would a sane person plead insanity?
  • Even when the defense succeeds, the acquitted usually end up with sentences similar to or longer than those for convictions.

Bard recounted the case of Andrea Yates, the Texas woman convicted of murder but spared the death penalty last March for drowning her five children.

On the day that she drowned her children one by one in a bathtub, Andrea Yates was not taking any medications, nor had she been prescribed any since her previous bouts with depression and schizophrenia.

They sought the death penalty. And, in Texas, that was enough to show that she had knowledge.

  1. Steadman in Law and Human Behavior, Vol. The author believes that despite the loss of protection to society, there are important legal and moral barriers to abolishing the insanity defense.
  2. Such changes in Connecticut doubled the average term acquitted defendants spend committed in institutions and apparently caused the number of insanity pleas to drop, said Zonana, the Yale psychiatrist.
  3. A jury agreed, declaring him not guilty by reason of insanity. The McNaughton rule, which many U.
  4. But only about 1 percent of those who use the insanity defense successfully are released immediately, and the average length of hospital stays for people let off because of insanity is about three years.
  5. Aron, if ruled guilty but not criminally responsible, would have to petition Maryland's mental health department for her release.

And that it is possible, just as it is possible to have degrees of kidney disease or heart disease, to have degrees of mental illness that affect the thought process and [that] should be taken into consideration while assessing criminal responsibility. If a murder trial defendant snarled, growled, tore his hair and otherwise acted like a wild beast, he stood a good chance of being acquitted and committed instead to an insane asylum.

  1. M'Naghten, for instance, died after 20 years in a mental asylum.
  2. Demythologizing Inaccurate Perceptions of the Insanity Defense.
  3. Many people also believe that those acquitted on the basis of insanity get a quick and easy pass out of prison. Lilienfeld is a psychology professor at Emory University, and Arkowitz is a psychology professor at the University of Arizona.
  4. Implications for the insanity defence in the Criminal Justice System are discussed.

Queen Victoria, having herself survived several assassination attempts, was not amused. Victoria asked the House of Lords to recommend a test of legal insanity.

The insanity defense on trial.

The Lords came up with the Right or Wrong Test: A person was insane if he did not know what he was doing, or if he did not know that it was wrong. This standard crossed the ocean to America, where it remains in effect in Texas and some other states.

  • In a 2007 study psychologist Angela Bloechl of the University of Wisconsin—Oshkosh and her colleagues found that college students estimate that the defense is used in 30 percent of criminal cases and succeeds 30 percent of the time;
  • But, he said, "When you've got no better defense, that's the way to go;
  • Maryland's statute, the one Aron will employ, defines the plea as "guilty but not criminally responsible by reason of insanity;
  • And although many believe the plea dumps dangerous felons back on the streets, in fact attorneys attempt the defense only rarely and typically fail in the attempt;
  • The author believes that despite the loss of protection to society, there are important legal and moral barriers to abolishing the insanity defense.

However, the standard defies logic, according to Bard. Last summer, as part of a federal program signed into law by President Clinton in 2000, Pennsylvania and most other states established mental health courts for offenders diagnosed with mental illnesses.