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Insanity Defense Research Papers

Insanity defense research papers review the elements of the insanity defense and the three key phases that are important in working with this defense. The following elements should be discussed in your research project:

  1. Begin by discussing the prevalence with which this defense is used.
  2. Discuss three key phrases that deal with the nature of this type of defense.
  3. Briefly mention the role that expert testimony plays in insanity-claim court proceedings.
Insanity Defense in United States

Research papers on the insanity defense have noted that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the public holds a mistaken belief that the insanity defense is frequently used. “In one poll, respondents wrongly claimed that all sorts of famous (and convicted) criminals…had successfully employed the defense”. This prejudice on the part of lay persons may reflect a general distrust of the criminal justice system, a sense that it is “too soft” on criminals. If this is the case, then it is akin to the equally mistaken notion that criminals routinely escape legal sanctions because of “legal technicalities.”  In truth, one of our writers, writing in a journal, has noted, a study of more than 8,900 insanity pleas in felony cases revealed that the defense is used only about 1% of the time, and that actual acquittal occurs only 26% of the time in which the plea is used. The study also noted that a defendant attempting to use the insanity defense has a better chance of success in a bench trial than in a jury trial. We can speculate that this success differential is a function of the fact that members of the public—who make up juries—are highly suspicious of this type of defense.

Three phrases are important with respect to the contemporary use of the insanity defense:

  1. Incompetence to stand trial (IST)
  2. Not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI)
  3. Guilty but mentally ill (GBMI)

Research has noted, that for a  defendant to be considered competent he/she must be able to understand the charges that have been filed, must have some accurate sense of how the legal system works, and must have some understanding of what the possible outcomes of the trial will be. Additionally, the defendant must be able to assist his/her attorney in making a defense to the charges filed. As an author has also noted, the defendant’s functionality threshold for these capabilities has been set very low by the courts. But in the absence of any one of these conditions being met, then IST is a possibility.

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