Document Type

Article

Publication Date

Summer 1983

Keywords

Insanity defense, Insanity plea, Forensic psychiatry, Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, NGRI, John Hinckley Jr.

Disciplines

Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Law and Society | Litigation | Psychology and Psychiatry

Abstract

Public furor over the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity verdict in the trial of John Hinckley, Jr. already has stimulated legal changes in the insanity defense. This study documents more systematically the dimensions of negative public opinion concerning the Hinckley verdict. A survey of Delaware residents shortly after the trial's conclusion indicated that the verdict was perceived as unfair, Hinckley was viewed as not insane, the psychiatrists' testimony at the trial was not trusted, and the vast majority thought that the insanity defense was a loophole. However, survey respondents were unable to define the legal test for insanity and thought Hinckley would be confined only a short period of time, contrary to the estimates of experts. These findings, in conjunction with other research showing the public is not well informed about the insanity defense, underscore the importance of examining determinants of opinion about the insanity defense before additional reform is undertaken.

Publication Citation

Published in: The Public Opinion Quarterly, vol. 47, no. 2 (Summer 1983).