Shall The Plea Of Insanity Be Abolished?

In 1906, architect Stanford White was murdered by Harry Kendall Thaw, who was later found not guilty by reason of insanity. In another more recent case, a jury found a man sane, despite testimony by several psychologists who all agreed that he was insane. These high profile cases lead the Times Magazine to ponder the validity of the insanity plea as it was in 1911.

Two viewpoints are presented. In one corner is John Brooks Leavitt, prominent New York attorney. In the other corner, Carlos Frederick MacDonald, the psychiatrist who examined President McKinley’s assassin, Leon Czolgosz (you get bonus points if you were able to recall that name before you read it, and you get more bonus points if you can pronounce Czolgosz).

A few weeks ago, Jared Loughner tried to kill his Congresswoman in Tucson, taking out several bystanders in the process. There is speculation that his defense may try an insanity plea. So the Times has revisited the subject in an online debate featuring six experts. You can read the introduction to the debate here, or just jump right in to the discussion.

SHALL THE PLEA OF INSANITY BE ABOLISHED? How Far Expert Medical Testimony Should Figure in Court Proceedings and What Is Needed to Remedy Present Conditions Discussed by Prominent Authorities. (PDF)

From February 12, 1911

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