The insanity verdict, the psychopath, and post-acquittal confinement

A L Halpern
Psychiatric Quarterly 1992, 63 (3): 209-43
Automatic post-acquittal confinement, an almost inevitable concomitant of a verdict of not guilty or not responsible by reason of insanity has for many acquittees been nothing more than punishment in disguise. Replacement of the insanity defense by statutes that provide for expert witness testimony to show that the defendant lacked the state of mind required as an element of the offense charged, has been found by two state supreme courts to be in accord with constitutional requirements. Procedures can be implemented, with due regard for public safety, so that all offenders, mentally disordered or otherwise, may be dealt with in an ethical, effective and humane manner. The 1992 decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in the case of Foucha v. Louisiana, holding that the Constitution does not permit the continued confinement of a still dangerous, but no longer mentally ill, insanity acquittee, makes it all the more necessary that the insanity defense be abolished and that an offender's mental illness be considered primarily in the context of mitigation, disposition and sentencing, rather than exculpation.

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