The Supreme Court has ruled that states may keep criminal defendants from pleading insanity without violating their constitutional rights.

The 6-3 decision originated from a case in Kansas, where a man who killed his family wanted to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, in violation of state law. Kansas is one of four states that has eliminated that option for criminal defendants.


The Hill reports:

In an unusual alignment for the bench, Justice Elena Kagan, considered among the more liberal justices, wrote the majority opinion and was joined by her five conservative colleagues. Three liberal justices — Stephen BreyerSonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg — dissented.

“Defining the precise relationship between criminal culpability and mental illness involves examining the workings of the brain, the purposes of the criminal law, the ideas of free will and responsibility,” Kagan wrote. “It is a project demanding hard choices among values, in a context replete with uncertainty, even at a single moment in time. And it is a project, if any is, that should be open to revision over time, as new medical knowledge emerges and as legal and moral norms evolve.”

“Which is all to say that it is a project for state governance, not constitutional law,” Kagan continued.

The Kansas law prevents defendants from arguing that their diminished mental state impaired their ability to understand right from wrong and that they should not be held criminally responsible for their offenses. Under the law, defendants can still argue that they lacked the necessary intent to commit the crime, and can use insanity to ask for reduced sentences.

Idaho, Montana, and Utah have the same rule as Kansas. Alaska also places limits on the insanity defense. 

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Sirdirkfan
Sirdirkfan
2 years ago

Believe those states still require anyone pleading insanity to go through the psychiatric drill in a mental hospital and if they become ‘fit’ for trial then they will be tried as a sane person.
The SCOTUS did a good job by leaving the States to their own business there.

A. D Roberts
2 years ago
Reply to  Sirdirkfan

Insanity should not prevent justice from being served.

Adrian Rehak
Adrian Rehak
2 years ago

There should be no such thing as “innocent by reason of insanity.” If someone is truly insane that person needs to be in an institution to protect both himself/herself and the rest of the public. In this case lock-up would not be a prison but still locked! If the person isn’t truly insane the person is responsible for his/her behavior and needs to be locked up to protect the public and preferably on a rock pile for punishment!

Craig Murphy
Craig Murphy
2 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Rehak

Some states have guilty but insane and they are institutionalized for their period of insanity. If they are later adjudged to be sane, they are then transferred to a regular prison to serve the rest of their sentences.

Carol Peterson
2 years ago
Reply to  Craig Murphy

That sounds like a perfect solution to this, Craig, where it’s allowed to be used as a defense. I’m inclined to believe, though, that unless someone is already diagnosed as mentally ill, they should NOT be allowed to use it as a defense after criminal activity. My opinion, of course!

Ollie Octopus
Ollie Octopus
2 years ago
Reply to  Adrian Rehak

Adrian: I can tell you aren’t experienced in the law. “There should be no such thing as “innocent by reason of insanity.” There should not be, nor was there ever such a law or plea. It is “not guilty by reason of insanity.” There is a big difference between not guilty and innocent. I have had several cases where people have been sent to prison when they should have been sent to a mental institution, but none was available. The prisons have many mentally ill persons in them. They need a secure place to get help and not prison.

h8aliar
2 years ago

insane people don’t know their insane so how can they claim insanity for something they did. If you know you did it your guilty.

Mike
Mike
2 years ago
Reply to  h8aliar

It’s a Catch 22. If they plea insanity they are sane and not eligible.

Ollie Octopus
Ollie Octopus
2 years ago
Reply to  h8aliar

THEY don’t claim insanity, their attorney and doctors do it for them. The test is no if they knew they did it, but rather did they know right from wrong.

Capt Boom USMC
Capt Boom USMC
2 years ago
Reply to  Ollie Octopus

Sentencing needs to be separated from guilty-not guilty.
Too bad that US courts do not seek truth, only admissible evidence. And Lawyers are not held to being truthful.
The truthful facts and actuality of actions should determine guilt.
Then IF found guilty of a crime, the reasoning, sanity, character, mitigation, etc. Should be considered. Not the process currently. Lawyers are free to introduce false and misleading “evidence” all throughout the “trial”. Confusing jurors and judges alike as to what the actual facts might be, most of the “true facts are likely not presented. Only what fits the prosecutors or defendants “storyline”.
All the emotions, reasoning, mental status should only be presented to determine sentencing.
So, guilty of crime, & sentenced to mental facility or acquitted of punishment makes more sense.
Yes, defendant did kill victim & is guilty of the crime; AND meets standards of self defense, & is acquitted of guilty verdict and released from being punished.