|Photo by Lexi Ruskell on Unsplash|
Welcome back to A-Z. Today's letter t is for Temporary insanity.
The notion of temporary insanity argues that a defendant was insane during the commission of a crime, but they later regained their sanity after the criminal act was carried out. This legal defense is commonly used to defend individuals that have committed crimes of passion.
Prior to 1981, the insanity defense was only used in 2 percent of the felony cases and in those cases failed over 75 percent of the time.
What happened in 1981?
John Hinckley Jr developed an obsession with the movie Taxi Driver, in which Jodie Foster stars as a child prostitute and Robert De Niro plays Travis Bickle, who plots to assassinate the presidential candidate in the film.
Hinckley personally watched the movie 15 times consecutively and grew infatuated with Jodie Foster. Hinckley then began to stalk the actress by relocating to New Haven, Connecticut, near Yale University where she was enrolled. He signed for a Yale writing class, slipped her poems and messages through her door and calling her persistently.
Eventually he decided to attempt an assassination on President Ronald Reagan. As the president left the Hilton Hotel, he shot six times at Reagan, wounding a few other people in the process. One of the bullets hit the president in the chest, but he survived the attempt.
Hinckley’s defense team pled for insanity defense and succeeded, he was acquitted of all of his 13 charges of assault, murder and weapon counts.
Due to the high profile of the case, the public perceived the insanity defense as a loophole in the legal system which allowed a clearly guilty criminal to dodge incarceration.
During the years following the Hinckley acquittal, Congress and half of the states enacted changes in the insanity defense by either
- Limiting the substantive test of insanity
- Shifting the burden of proof to the defendant
- Supplementing the insanity verdict with a separate verdict of guilty but mentally ill (GBMI)
- Abolishing the insanity defense altogether
After 35 years Hinckley was released from Saint Elizabeths mental hospital. He's required to take his meds to prevent psychosis and combat anxiety, to meet with a psychiatrist and a therapist and to carry a GPS-enabled mobile phone so his activities can be monitored.
Taking into consideration that nobody of the six people who were wounded in the assassination attempt, actually died, 35 years in the psychiatric hospital seems like he has paid his dues and is no threat to others anymore.
What worries me though, and that may be the Swiss in me, is how did this guy Hinckley get a gun? And why weren't measures taken to deal with his stalking? The letters, the phone calls, all scream sicko?
It is slightly off topic, and I know in this case nothing happened to Jodie Foster (even tough he did threaten to kill her and himself in the process), but it might very well have. Statistics say 50% of all domestic violence-related stalkers will carry out their threats.
Do you think stalking / harassing is taken seriously enough? Should it be easy for everybody to purchase a weapon? Did Hinckley get off easy with his "sentence"?
Let me know in the comments below and please visit back tomorrow.
|Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay|