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Defense of Insanity in New York State

NCJ Number
Date Published
109 pages
Recommendations of the New York State Law Revision Commission regarding the proposed Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1980 are presented in a report submitted to the Governor.
The commission recommends that the defense of insanity should be retained in its present form. Persons who cannot be deemed responsible for criminal acts because of mental disease or defect should not be treated as criminals. However, the laws relating to the postverdict procedures for treatment of such persons should be substantially reformed to ensure public safety and to safeguard the rights of the mentally disabled offender. Statutes relating to the determination of the need for involuntary hospitalization of defendants who are found not responsible by reason of mental disease should be enacted. Defendants determined to have a dangerous mental disorder should be placed in a secure facility supervised by the Department of Mental Hygiene and should not be transferred or released without court approval. Comprehensive legislation is recommended for dealing with such matters as furloughs, transfers, and supervision upon release. Legislation is also needed for governing the pretrial psychiatric examination of defendants who assert the defense of insanity. The form of the jury verdict should be changed to 'Not Responsible by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect,' and the trial judge should instruct the jury of the consequences of such a verdict. Finally, acceptance by the court of a plea of 'Not Responsible by Reason of Mental Disease or Defect' should be permitted with appropriate safeguards. Acceptance of the plea would have the same effect as a verdict after trial based on similar grounds. An appendix and 49 footnotes are included in the report. (Author abstract modified).