Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Justices Afffirm State Choice on Insanity Defense

Essential to any bar preparation is the recognition that the insanity defense in criminal trials is a matter of state concern. The Constitution requires no specific insanity defense, nor does it mandate that states must even make available such a defense. The Supreme Court affirmed this principle 6-3 last week in the case of Clark v. Arizona.

Arizona had adopted part of the M'Naghten Rule for which Defendant must lack the ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his action. The Defendant in Clark was a paranoid schizophrenic who killed a police officer. Interestingly (troubling) enough was the fact that Justice Kennedy joined Stevens and Ginsburg finding that the Arizona version of insanity defense was irrational. However, the majority for state choice, championed by Justice Souter, announced that there was no "baseline for due process in the area."