"Settled Insanity" Defense Stemming from Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs Recognized but Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Requisite Long-Term, Chronic, and Habitual Abuse; Use of Lay Testimony to Establish Defense Also Addressed

Developments in Mental Health Law, July 2007 | Go to article overview

"Settled Insanity" Defense Stemming from Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs Recognized but Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Requisite Long-Term, Chronic, and Habitual Abuse; Use of Lay Testimony to Establish Defense Also Addressed


The legal system has long wrestled with the question of whether a psychosis that is the result of substance abuse provides a sufficient predicate for an insanity defense. For example, the Indiana Supreme Court addressed this issue in 1878. Virginia, as well as Alaska, California, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, Oregon, and West Virginia, have established a "settled insanity" doctrine that permits a defendant to use evidence of chronic abuse of alcohol or drugs to establish the requisite presence of a "mental disease or defect" at the time of the offense.

Although substance abuse generally does not excuse criminal behavior, under this doctrine an insanity defense is permitted when prolonged, habitual, and chronic abuse of alcohol or drugs has created a mental disease or defect. This condition, however, must be produced over a significant period of time. Vermont, for example, rejected this defense when usage occurred over a two-week period.

The Virginia Supreme Court addressed a case where the trial court ruled there was insufficient evidence regarding "settled insanity" and, as a result, did not permit the defendant to pursue an insanity defense. On appeal, the Virginia Supreme Court affirmed this ruling.

The defendant in this case had been traveling in North Carolina when his car broke down. He managed to make arrangements with a stranger to drive him to New York. While passing through Virginia, he directed this person to first take him to a residence where he inquired about someone named "Q." He then requested that he be driven to a specified motel. At the motel, the defendant went to a room and asked for "Q," returned to the car, and asked that he be taken to the back of the motel where there were other rooms.

He then ingested what appeared to be cocaine, pulled out a knife, tied a bandana around his head, said "I'm going to kill me two m***** f******," and got out of the car. At this point the driver sped away and notified the police and provided a description of the defendant. Motel guests staying next door heard banging sounds and saw a man run by outside their window. After entering the room, they discovered the victim's body, which had twenty-seven stab wounds.

The next day, a state police trooper noticed a man, subsequently identified as the defendant, walking on Interstate Highway 95 dressed in a "white fur coat, no shirt, red tights, and yellow shorts." The trooper informed the man he could not walk on the interstate. Returning a few minutes later, the trooper spotted the defendant walking backwards on the exit ramp toward the interstate. The defendant approached the trooper's car and expressed frustration at being checked on again. After an altercation, the trooper, joined by another trooper, subdued the defendant. At that point they discovered that a warrant for murder had been issued for the defendant and arrested him.

After being charged with first degree murder, the defendant gave the requisite notice that he intended to present evidence of his insanity at trial and introduce the mental health evaluation report generated by a court-appointed licensed clinical psychologist, as well as the lay testimony of defendant's roommate, the defendant's mother, and two correctional officers, all of whom would provide evidence indicating the defendant experienced psychiatric symptoms.

However, at a pretrial hearing the Commonwealth's Attorney argued that (1) the expert's report did not support an insanity defense and (2) expert testimony is a necessary predicate to asserting an insanity defense. The defense responded that the expert's report could be "helpful" in establishing the existence of a mental disease or defect and that the lay witness testimony would provide sufficient supporting evidence of a mental disease or defect to justify permitting a jury to decide whether the requirements for the insanity defense had been met. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

"Settled Insanity" Defense Stemming from Abuse of Alcohol or Drugs Recognized but Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Requisite Long-Term, Chronic, and Habitual Abuse; Use of Lay Testimony to Establish Defense Also Addressed
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.