BOOK REVIEW: Two Proposals for Abolishing the Insanity Defense. THE INSANITY PLEA, BY WILLIAM J. WINSLADE & JUDITH WILSON ROSS. Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1983 University of California, Hastings College of Law
Hastings Law Journal

BOOK REVIEW: Two Proposals for Abolishing the Insanity Defense.

THE INSANITY PLEA, BY WILLIAM J. WINSLADE & JUDITH WILSON ROSS.

CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS: NEW YORK, NEW YORK (1983). Pp. 226. $ 15.95.

MADNESS AND THE CRIMINAL LAW, BY NORVAL MORRIS.

UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO PRESS: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS (1982). Pp. 235. $ 20.00.

NOVEMBER, 1983

35 Hastings L.J. 403

Author

Randolph N. Jonakait *

Excerpt

Two recent books, Madness and the Criminal Law by Norval Morris and The Insanity Plea by William J. Winslade and Judith Wilson Ross, advocate the abolition of the insanity defense in criminal cases. The two books differ greatly in their presentation and analysis. Only Professor Morris' work merits serious consideration by lawyers, scholars, and policymakers.

The Insanity Plea

The proposals of The Insanity Plea may have value, but their significance is undercut by the book's shortcomings. Winslade and Ross, directors of the Program in Medicine, Law & Human Values at the University of California at Los Angeles, advocate "(1) an elimination of the insanity defense, (2) the elimination of most psychiatric testimony, including all testimony by psychiatrists about the defendant's state of mind, (3) the adoption of the guilty but mentally ill plea, and (4) the separation of guilt and penalty phases of a trial when the defendant pleads mental illness." 1

The authors contend that such changes are necessary because even though a successful insanity defense is rare, when it does occur it "is frequently such an obvious abuse of the idea of insanity and nonresponsibility that the verdict enrages the public and tarnishes both the legal system and the psychiatric profession." 2 They support their thesis by presenting narratives drawn mostly from the transcripts of seven well-known trials involving psychiatric testimony. These are the cases of Dan White, Prosenjit Poddar, Leonard Smith, Tex Watson, Robert Torsney, Ernest Benjamin Smith, Jr., and John Hinckley. ...
 
 
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