Supreme Court rules states can bar insanity defense

  • In this March 16, 2020 photo, a tree blooms outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, March 16, 2020.

    In this March 16, 2020 photo, a tree blooms outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, March 16, 2020. Associated Press

 
 
Updated 3/23/2020 10:00 AM

WASHINGTON -- The Supreme Court ruled Monday that states can prevent criminal defendants from pleading insanity without violating their constitutional rights. The decision could prompt states across the country to toughen standards for defendants who wish to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

The justices' 6-3 decision came in a case from Kansas, where James Kraig Kahler was sentenced to death for killing his estranged wife, two teenage daughters and his wife's grandmother.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kahler wanted to mount an insanity defense, but Kansas is one of four states that eliminated a defendant's ability to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. Idaho, Montana and Utah are the others. Alaska also limits the insanity defense.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the court that 'œKansas takes account of mental health at both trial and sentencing. It has just not adopted the particular insanity defense Kahler would like. That choice is for Kansas to make - and, if it wishes, to remake and remake again as the future unfolds," Kagan wrote in upholding a ruling from the Kansas Supreme Court.

Kagan's three liberal colleagues dissented. Kansas 'œhas eliminated the core of a defense that has existed for centuries: that the defendant, due to mental illness, lacked the mental capacity necessary for his conduct to be considered morally blameworthy," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote for himself and Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.