Crazy clown picture taken by Garbriet Camerotti
Most people believe that the insanity defense is used all the time. In reality, the insanity defense is not something that is raised that often in many criminal cases especially murder. However, the public seems to pay more attention to these types of cases, and as a result there is more media coverage. Many different resources have shown including a frontline report (there is a link at the bottom to view this report) says that the insanity defense is raised in less than 1 percent of felony cases.
One of the reasons why the insanity defense is seldom used is that it is an affirmative defense. This means that a defendant needs to raise insanity as an issue. As you may already know, a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, and has no duties to raise a defense. A defendant may sit there, and force the prosecution to prove all the charges against him. If the prosecution fails to uphold its burden, the defense can ask the court to dismiss the case.
When the insanity defense is used, it often means that the defendant is agreeing with the facts of the case. So instead of saying that the defendant is not guilty because he or she didn’t do it, the defendant is saying that he or she should be found not guilty because of his or her mental state.
As you can imagine this is a dangerous proposition. No matter how strong a case may look, there are always things that may lead the jury to believe that a person is not guilty. After all, O.J. Simpson didn’t exert the insanity defense in his double homicide trial, the case against him looked strong, and we all know the result. Now if O.J. used the insanity defense, he probably wouldn’t have been able to contest the facts. Additionally, statistics has shown that the insanity defense is usually unsuccessful. Sometimes it is the right defense to use, while at other times, it is just plain insane.
Globe reporting on the “Rockerfeller” case
Massachusetts Bar Association comments on the insanity defense
Front line Q&A for insanity defense
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