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The Insanity Defense: The Case for Abolition
Irwin N. Perr
Psychiatric Services 1985; doi:
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The debate over the insanity defense has intensified since John Hinckley, Jr., was found not guilty by reason of insanity after his assassination attempt on President Reagan. We asked John J. McGrath, M.D., and Irwin N. Perr, M.D., J.D., to present opposing views on this controversial issue. Dr. McGrath's commentary begins on page 54.

The Department of Psychiatry, Rutgers Medical School-University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Piscataway, New Jersey 08854

1985 American Psychiatric Association

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The author discusses psychiatrists' objections to the insanity defense, including the negative publicity generated by murder trials in which psychiatrists provide expert testimony. He also examines the legal profession's attitudes toward the defense and the pressure applied to expert witnesses through our adversarial system of justice. The abolition of the insanity defense might expedite the legal process, the author concludes, but it would not greatly affect the courtroom role of psychiatrists. Psychiatric evaluation would still be required in certain cases, such as those involving diminished responsibility and competency to stand trial.

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