By Reason of Insanity
Having a mental illness does not mean you will commit crime. In fact, statistically speaking, mentally ill people are far more likely to be victims of crimes rather than perpetrators. Unfortunately there’s still a huge stigma associated with mental illness, which paradoxically can prevent those with mental illness from seeking treatment.
When a mentally ill person does become violent, chances are it’s because they have a serious mental problem that has gone undiagnosed and untreated. This is where the insanity plea comes into play. If a defendant can prove they were unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time they became violent, they can end up getting treatment for their illness rather than going to prison.
In the United States alone, there are 51 variations of the insanity plea. There have been many high-profile insanity plea cases that have brought the issue to light, but less than one percent of defendants who enter an insanity plea are found to be criminally insane. Most of those people end up withdrawing their insanity pleas before their trials began.
When John Hinkley, Jr. watched Taxi Driver 15 times and became obsessed with Jodi Foster, he was acquitted. But Jeffrey Dahmer’s attempt at pleading insanity was not successful and he faced 15 consecutive life sentences. Learn more about criminal insanity from this infographic!