Attorneys, Psychiatrists, and Psychologists: Analyzing Attitudes Toward the Insanity Defense

Kareem L. Jordan, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Because the insanity defense involves a criminal defendant's state of mind, expert opinion is generally required in the legal proceedings to establish, or to refute, the defendant's "sanity". The experts who provide such opinion evidence are usually psychiatrists or psychologists. Therefore, the major people involved in cases in which the insanity defense is an issue are the attorneys handling the criminal trial, psychiatrists, and psychologists. Noted differences in attitudes toward the insanity defense have been shown to exist between prosecutors and defense attorneys and also between psychiatrists and psychologists. These individual studies have shown significant findings for each of the populations of interest in each one's respective study; however, it is difficult to draw conclusions about diverse populations that are based on different studies. There are three populations of interest for this research interest for this research: attorneys (assistant district attorneys and public defenders), psychiatrists, and psychologists, all working in a large metropolitan area. All of the assistant district attorneys and public defenders in their respective offices were issued a questionnaire in their mailboxes. The names of the psychiatrists and psychologists were chosen from the Yellow Pages phone book. The instrument that was used for data collection was a mailed questionnaire, designed by the reseacher.

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Updated 05/20/2006