Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Supreme Court Ruling Lets States Bar Insanity Defense

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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31 COMMENTS

  1. 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.

  2. 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!

    • 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.

      • 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  3. The insanity plea never made sense. The purpose of law is to protect citizens. People should be found guilty or inocent based on whether they committed a crime. If they did but there were circumstances they should be taken into account. For instance, self defense. But, not guilty by reason of insanity is wrong if the person commited the crime. It should be, guilty by reason of insanity. The defendant then should be admitted to a hospital prison for psychiatric care.

  4. There’s a lot of temporary insanity – like after the first time the Red Sox beat the Yankees in the World Series.

  5. When we lived is Hawaii the insanity plea was allowed and the person sent to a psychiatric hospital. A person was allowed to leave when a psychiatrist deemed him sane. He promptly went out, kidnapped a young woman, took her off into a cane field in the mountains and tortured and killed her. After that it was decided a person, sane or otherwise to be judged as guilty or not guilty of a crime. Being turned loose was changed from letting a psychiatrist decide when that person was no longer a threat to society. I still think deciding guilt or innocence should be decided first. Then sentencing should be decided. If guilty then a sentence into a criminally insane placement. Obviously the man in Hawaii was a threat to others.

    • Yes some of these left wing progressive doctors are as bad as the left wing TDS judges who have tried to block this president at every turn. Perhaps that doctor who gave the patient a green light should be charged with aiding and abetting a murder.

  6. To plead not guilty by reason of insanity, has always been something that I have had a problem with.You are still guilty of the crime but, you may not be sane enough to face the charges. In this case you are still a minus/danger to the public and yourself and if the crime was a violent one you should be put away for your own safety and the safety of others. No one should get a pass for committing crimes.

    • So far, Hillary has. Comey has. Obama has…and the list goes on. It is time to indict and prosecute the large number of swamp rats that are running around.

      • Don’t hold your breath. With this hoax of a virus designed to crash our economy to the glee of the dems, nothing will b done to these people. Look how the dems are trying to incorporate parts of the green new deal in the Coronavirus stimulus bill. There’s is about power and hatred for this president. They put that over helping millions of business and Americans who are suffering. They are traitors as far as I’m concerned and should never hold office again. Rather that be at the local, state or federal level. If you vote for these people, you are just like them. That are all poor excuses for human beings. Especially Nancy and her crew of socialist democrats and Chuck Schumer a really piece of doggie doo doo.

    • Should be: Not Judged due to Insanity.
      If able to understand charges, and mentally capable of assisting legal eagles in their own defence; then should be prosecuted. Resulting in provable that the person did actually commit the crimes charged with. Truthfully, not only what lawyers determine admissible or evidence.
      IF found guilty, then all the bleeding heart liberal emotions and conflated reasoning could be entered into consideration.
      Insanity has nothing to do with if the person did a crime. Only sentencing phase should consider mental status. And only proven true facts should be used to determine guilt. Unfortunately truth has no place in criminal trials in US justice.
      Lawyers, police, prosecutors, are allowed to lie “in pursuit of justice” or “admissible evidence” every day. This practice should have stopped before it was allowed to flourish.
      Insanity is used to mitigate criminal acts? Why?
      Justice in Sentencing MUST account for mental capacity, mental status -now and at time of crimes. Either the person committed the criminal act or not. Why, intent, knowledge of criminal law; that is just mitigation or aggravation of appropriate sentencing.

  7. Watch the Dems use this law, and at least this sentence : Which is all to say that it is a project for the state governance, not constitutional law to apply “GUN CONTROL !”

  8. I’ve always felt that the ”Not Guilty By Reason Of Insanity” defense is a contradiction of inaccuracies in and of itself. You did the crime, but because you’re a nut case, you’re not guilty is an asinine and ridiculous concept. Guilty But Insane is the more accurate term if the mental state of the accused is going to be allowed as a defense. Whether it’s a temporary or permanent condition, the only real question is whether or not the sentence should be a lifetime of incarceration or whether the accused’ course of prescribed treatment is sufficiently safe for their reintegration into society. A Guilty But Insane defense would only the Death Penalty from the list of prescribed punishments. Whether or not the accused ends up in a forensic psych unit or is treated in the prison system and the duration of stay being the obvious punishments.

  9. The fact is ALL individuals who commit these kinds of crimes are a little insane… that should not keep them from being tried for the crime they commited!

  10. IF A PERSON IS INSANE AND KILLS SOMEONE WITH A GUN, KINFE, CLUB, BOMB, POISON, WEAPON, DROWNING, CAR, GAS OR WHATEVER, THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING. THERE SHOULD NOT BE A LAW THAT ALLOWS A PERSON TO KILL SOMEONE AND THEN NOT BE CHARGED WITH THEIR DEATH, UNLESS IT IS AN ACCIDENT OR UNLESS IT IS DONE IN SELF-DEFENCE. DRUNK, OR CRIMINALLY INSANE PEOPLE SHOULD NOT BE ALLOWED IN SOCIETY AND SHOULD BE INCARCERATED. MANSLAUGHTER OR CAR ACCIDENTS THAT CAUSE DEATHS SHOULD BE CHARGED BY WHAT CAUSED THE ACCIDENT. DRUGS CAUSE DEATHS, DWI, DUI OR OTHER MENTAL ILLINESSES CAUSE DEATHS AND KILL INNOCIENT PEOPLE. NOBODY SHOULD BE DRIVING A VEHICLE WHILE UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF DRUGS, ALCOHOL, OR MIND ALTERNING PRESCRIPTIONS.

  11. Who the HELL is this BITCH to wish this . Ssf he should be totally taken off the air. These idiots on MSNBC think these kinds of remarks are ok. They are really the ” enemy of the people” and LIARS AND HYPOCRITES and I have said this way before TRUMP WAS ELECTED.

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