Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Rita J. Simon
The insanity defense is among the most controversial issues in U.S. and British criminal law: “The issue of criminal responsibility has attracted more attention and stimulated more controversy than any other question in the substantive criminal law” (Allen 1964: 105). The attention that the insanity defense continues to receive is somewhat odd, since it is used in less than 2 percent of all criminal trials. Of course, it is most often used in cases involving heinous, violent acts for which the defendant may face the penalty of death if convicted. As Alan Stone wrote: The insanity defense touches on ultimate social values and beliefs. It purports to draw a line between those who are morally responsible and those who are not, those who are blameworthy and those who are not, those who have free will and those who do not, those who should be punished and those who should not ...