Start Date

1-5-2019 2:00 PM

End Date

1-5-2019 2:15 PM

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Legal | Psychiatry and Psychology | United States History

Subjects

Insanity defense -- United States -- History, Insanity (Law) -- United States -- History, Insanity (Law) -- United States -- Cases, Law -- United States -- Psychological aspects

Description

The United States legal system has had a fluctuating relationship with the insanity defense for decades, and the trial of United States v. Hinckley was a critical milestone for this development. Before John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and the jury of his trial found him not guilty, American society generally agreed with the death penalty, but both the public and the government were outraged after Hinckley’s verdict. This outrage and the subsequent political backlash against the insanity defense were motivated by progress in the area of mental illness treatment in the United States. In the early twentieth century, acquittal by the insanity defense still often led to imprisonment in a mental institution for life. When conditions and treatment improved for those with mental illness, American society no longer viewed acquittal by the insanity defense as enough of a punishment. This is what led to the shift in opinion after United States v. Hinckley.

Persistent Identifier

https://archives.pdx.edu/ds/psu/28514

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May 1st, 2:00 PM May 1st, 2:15 PM

The United States' Relationship With the Insanity Defense Before and After United States v. Hinckley

The United States legal system has had a fluctuating relationship with the insanity defense for decades, and the trial of United States v. Hinckley was a critical milestone for this development. Before John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan in 1981 and the jury of his trial found him not guilty, American society generally agreed with the death penalty, but both the public and the government were outraged after Hinckley’s verdict. This outrage and the subsequent political backlash against the insanity defense were motivated by progress in the area of mental illness treatment in the United States. In the early twentieth century, acquittal by the insanity defense still often led to imprisonment in a mental institution for life. When conditions and treatment improved for those with mental illness, American society no longer viewed acquittal by the insanity defense as enough of a punishment. This is what led to the shift in opinion after United States v. Hinckley.