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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is the Availability of the Insanity Defense Constitutionally Required?

Yes, or at least that's what an amicus brief I signed  argues in connection with whether cert in the Delling case should be granted. (And yes, my signature signals that the brief meets my Fallon-inspired standards for amicus participation.)

The brief argues to the Supreme Court that the very few (four) states without an insanity defense are in violation of the Constitution and that the problem is not cured by merely allowing challenges to the mens rea elements that are predicated on mental illness. The amicus brief warrants two short observations.

First, it's a very diverse (and present company excluded) distinguished group of legal academics who have signed on to it: from Slobogin the leading schmancy anti-retributivist (as well as a leading scholar on the issue of mental health and criminal law) to, well, a bunch of schmancy retributivists...

So, in addition to the brief's arguments, I hope the fact of who has agreed to sign this brief helps the cert petition generate the sustained attention from the Court that the issue warrants.

Second, the brief advances the claim under the due process clause, but I am told by Stephen Morse, the principal academic author of the brief, that the Eighth Amendment argument is also being advanced by Jeffrey Fisher and his team from Stanford's appellate clinic. I was glad to hear this since I think the Eighth Amendment is an equally clean doctrinal device to ensure that punishments are not visited upon those who were insane at the time of their crimes. For those two of you interested, I've given some reflection to the issue of the Eighth Amendment and the punishment of the presently incompetent. To my mind, much of what I wrote there -- in the Panetti v. Quarterman context -- that retribution cannot properly be inflicted on the presently incompetent -- applies squarely to situations in which someone was incompetent at the time of the crime's commission.

Posted by Administrators on July 17, 2012 at 04:53 PM in Article Spotlight, Constitutional thoughts, Criminal Law, Current Affairs | Permalink


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Didn't Professor Slobogin argue just the opposite, not too long ago? Christopher Slobogin, An End to Insanity: Recasting the Role of Mental Disability in Criminal Cases, 86 Va. L.Rev. 1199 (2000).

Posted by: AmyA | Jul 19, 2012 7:27:48 PM

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