Relevant Legal Standards

  • M’Naughten rule—at the time of committing the act, the accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing or, if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong.”
  • Irresistible Impulse test—rule which allowed insanity to include any impulse control situation (policeman at the elbow test) where a personality who knew the difference between right and wrong could simply not resist a temptation or emotion-based impulse.
  • ALI/Brawner standard—the 1972 adoption of the American Law Institute’s recommendation as defined as the presence of a mental disease or defect (specifically excluding personality disorders and diminished capacity conditions) and where either: (1) a substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of the act exists; or (2) an inability to conform one’s behavior to the requirements of law exists (known as the volitional prong).
  • Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984—The federal insanity defense now requires the defendant to prove, by “clear and convincing evidence,” that “at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts” 18 U.S.C. § 4241.
NGRI Evaluations
  1. Evaluate defendant’s history of mental illness (past, present, and time of offense)
  2. Evaluate the onset of psychiatric symptoms, especially before and during offense
  3. Evaluate irrational motives based on psychosis
  4. Evaluate the nexus and association of the mental disorder to the crime
  5. Question the defendant’s thoughts, behaviors, actions, and motives before, during, and after the offense
  6. Assess the defendant’s past legal and assaultive behavior as well as personality
  7. Evaluate defendant’s self-appraisal and perception of his loss of control
  8. Evaluate whether defendant was under the influence of substances during the time of the offense
  9. Evaluate defendant’s efforts to avoid detection
  10. Evaluate defendant’s disposing of evidence
  11. Evaluate defendant’s efforts to avoid apprehension
  12. Evaluate issues related to moral versus legal insanity
  13. Evaluate defendant’s moral justification for the offense
  14. Evaluate defendant’s ability to refrain/resist from the offending behaviors
  15. Evaluate defendant’s thoughts about his alternatives to the criminal behavior
  16. Evaluate whether defendant chose the circumstances for committing the acts
  17. Evaluate whether the criminal behavior included planning and preparation
  18. Evaluate defendant’s loss of control based on emotional state or intoxication