Acquittal by Reason of Insanity

Developments in the Law
  • Grant Morris
Part of the Perspectives in Law & Psychology book series (PILP, volume 6)


Our criminal law is premised on this assumption: Because an individual has the ability to choose between socially acceptable and socially unacceptable behavior, he or she can be held responsible for conduct that violates the law. Thus, an individual who chooses to commit a crime is morally blameworthy and therefore an appropriate subject for punishment. The insanity defense developed as a device to exclude from criminal responsibility people whom society views as not blameworthy. A severely mentally disordered individual is not considered blameworthy because he or she lacks the capacity (free will) to form the intent to commit a criminal act.


Supra Note Criminal Trial Civil Commitment United States Supreme Maximum Security 
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  1. 1.
    M’Naghten’s Case, 10 Clark & Fin. 200, 8 Eng. Rep. 718 (1843).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    See statutes compiled in Note, Commitment Following an Insanity Acquittal, 94 Harv. L. Rev. 605 n. 4 (1981)Google Scholar
  3. German & Singer, Punishing the Not Guilty: Hospitalization of Persons Acquitted by Reason of Insanity, 29 Rutgers L. Rev. 1011, 1076–79 (1976); G. Morris, The Insanity Defense: A Blueprint for Legislative Reform 93-94, 97-126 (1975); American Bar Foundation, The Mentally Disabled and the Law 430-43 (table 11.1) (rev. ed.) Brackel & Rock, eds., 1971).Google Scholar
  4. 40.
    A. Dukay, M.D. et al. Final Report of the Ionia State Hospital Medical Audit Committee 17 (Unpublished Report, 1965). For a more extensive description of “patient activities” as reported in the Ionia Medical Audit, see Morris, Mental Illness and Criminal Commitment in Michigan, 5 U. Mich. J. L. Reform 1, 11–13 (1971).Google Scholar
  5. 41.
    Wexler, Scoville et al. The Administration of Psychiatric Justice: Theory and Practice in Arizona, 13 Ariz. L. Rev. 1, 235 (1971).Google Scholar
  6. 51.
    Piperno, Indefinite Commitment in a Mental Hospital for the Criminally Insane: Two Models of Administration of Mental Health, 65 J. Crim. L. & Crim. 520, 526 (1974).Google Scholar
  7. 176.
    Chambers, Alternatives to Civil Commitment of the Mentally Ill: Practical Guides and Constitutional Imperatives, 70 Mich. L. Rev. 1107, 1111 (1972).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Grant Morris
    • 1
  1. 1.School of LawUniversity of San DiegoSan DiegoUSA

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