The insanity defense has been the subject of great controversy. A review of the jurisprudential debate, infamous cases, judicial and legislative decision-making, media coverage, as well as public attitudes, when read in light of scientific and empirical research, reveals a gaping disparity between what we know and how we think about the mentally ill and the insanity defense. The Author argues that this disparity is the result of several operational myths about the mentally ill and the insanity defense. In this Article, the Author focuses on the role of psychiatry, psychology, and mental illness in the law, specifically addressing how they are perceived and how they operate in the context of the insanity defense. He explores the nature of the myths, and exposes how they have been perpetuated. The Author attributes the longevity of the myths to the law's rejection of psychodynamic psychiatry and its principles. Instead of reflecting our current knowledge, jurisprudential literature and case law are guided by eighteenth century "wild beast" conceptions of the "insane." By exposing and dispelling the myths, the Author demonstrates the irrational development of insanity defense jurisprudence, and the need for a contemporary mythfree, reconsideration of the insanity defense.
Case Western Reserve Law Review, Vol. 40, Issue 3 (1989-1990), pp. 599-732