Understanding the Insanity Defense (National Overview)

(217 Ratings)

Produced on: October 05, 2016

Course Format On Demand Audio

Taught by


Course Description

Time 60 minutes
Difficulty Beginner

his lecture describes the history and practical uses of the insanity defense in the United States. The insanity defense has always been unpopular and controversial, and many violent offenders are convicted in spite of, and even because of, severe mental illness. The lecture describes the essential paradox of the insanity defense: more evidence of insanity tends to establish greater danger, and leads to convictions even in cases where defendants meet the legal definition of insanity. The lecture describes the development of the insanity defense in the United States, including the M’Naghton and  “irresistible impulse” tests, the “Durham” test experiment, and the national evisceration of insanity defenses following the acquittal of John Hinkley, Jr. Lastly, the lecture describes the practical problems of the insanity defense, including diagnosis of mental illness, prior histories and law testimony, evidence of planning and flight, the relationship between insanity and other defenses, the consequences of an NGRI verdict, jury instructions and closing argument.

Learning Objectives: 

  1. Review the major differences between jurisdictions as to the different “tests” for insanity
  2. Understand the practical problems of presenting justification defenses, including strategy, tactics, instructions, and typical evidentiary issues


Stephen Richards

Law Office of Stephen L. Richards

Areas of Practice

• Murder -- Homicide -- Death Penalty Cases

• Serious Felonies

• Drug / Weapons Cases

• Appeals -- Post-Convictions

• Sentencing -- Mitigation

• Civil Rights/1983

• Legal Education

• Legal Ethics

Litigation Percentage

• 100% of Practice Devoted to Litigation

Certified Legal Specialties

• Certified Lead Counsel, Capital Litigation Trial Bar, Illinois Supreme Court, 2001

Bar Admissions

• Illinois, 1985

• U.S. District Court Northern District of Illinois, 2008


• Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York

  o J.D. - 1983

  o Honors: Order of Barristers, Moot Court

• University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois

  o B.A.

  o Honors: With Honors 

  o Major: History

Published Works

• Reasonable Doubt Redux, 34 John Marshall L. Rev. 495, 2001

• The Admissibility of Expert Testimony, American Bar Association, 2003

Representative Cases

• People v. Terry Griggs, 152 Ill.2d 1, 604 N.E.2d 257 (Ill. S. Ct. 1992)

• People v. Arthur King, 154 Ill.2d 217, 608 N.E.2d 877 (Ill. S. Ct. 1993)


• New Ideas for Jury Selection, Illinois Public Defender Association, 2007

• Capital Jury Selection, Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal, 2007

Honors and Awards

• Kutak-Dodds Award, Defender Prize, National Legal Aid and Defender Association, 2003

Professional Associations and Memberships

• Illinois Public Defender Association, President, 2006 - 2008

• Illinois Public Defender Association, Board Member, 2000 - Present

Past Employment Positions

• Office of the State Appellate Defender, Deputy Defender, 2000 - 2008

• Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender, Assistant Public Defender, 1989 - 2000


Joanne G.

this presenter was great.

Kristin M.

This presenter is excellent. Great weaving of the anecdotal with the law.


The Professor shows that its not like it is on TV and that is good.

Mayo B.

Very useful and skillfully presented course

Laury F.

Good overview.

Kirk M.

good speaker

John S.

I am liking these subject overviews alot

Helen W.

Easily one of the most engaging courses.

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$ 59 Criminal Law, Litigation, and Public Interest Law In Stock


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