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NCJ Number: 158176 Find in a Library
Title: Community Standards of Criminal Liability and the Insanity Defense
Journal: Law and Human Behavior  Volume:19  Issue:5  Dated:(October 1995)  Pages:425-446
Author(s): D S Bailis; J M Darley; T L Waxman; P H Robinson
Date Published: 1995
Page Count: 22
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Two experiments with 71 participants compared laypersons' standards of insanity to standards incorporated in legal codes in the United States.
Abstract: The participants were undergraduate students at Princeton University in New Jersey. In the first experiment, case vignettes provided only legally relevant information about defendants' degrees of impairment in cognition or in behavioral control. Results revealed that participants' judgments of criminal liability or not guilty by reason of insanity reflected an exculpatory standard of substantial impairment in both cognition and control. In the second experiment, case vignettes provided realistic information about defendants' psychiatric diagnoses; the participants had to infer levels of impairment in cognition and control. Results revealed that participants made highly idiosyncratic inferences based on diagnostic categories; however, once made these inferences predicted judgments of not guilty by reason of insanity. Findings indicated that ordinary persons are not implicitly opposed to the two broad standards used in many courts for determining insanity. However, where reports of the case refer to psychiatric diagnoses and other extralegal indicators of the defendant's state of mind, community members will come to their own idiosyncratic conclusions about the defendant's degrees of cognitive and control dysfunction, resulting in controversies over the validity of the verdict and the application of the insanity defense itself. Tables, footnotes, and 35 references (Author abstract modified)
Main Term(s): Court rules
Index Term(s): Insanity defense; New Jersey; Psychological evaluation; State laws; Verdicts
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