The Insanity Defense in the Real World

Someone commits a crime but is found “not guilty by reason of insanity”. It doesn’t happen just on TV – it’s a real defense entered by a defendant in a criminal trial. The defendant claims that they were so mentally disturbed or incapacitated at the time of the offense that they did not have the required intention to commit the crime and is therefore not guilty – even though they committed the crime. But as Elliot Levine, a noted criminal defense lawyer in Massachusetts, will explain, this rarely used defense strategy can be difficult for the defense team.

In this episode, Levine and a former client, Pat, will discuss Levine’s successful defense using the insanity defense when Pat was tried for robbery. Pat is an Army veteran who held up a convenience store upon returning to the US after serving on the front lines in the Vietnam War. Levine argued that Pat was suffering from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) from his combat experiences. Levine will also share another instance in which he successfully used the insanity defense in a murder trial in front of a jury.