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Debating the Insanity Defense
What is the role of mental illness in criminal trials?
In the most recent "Room for Debate" feature in The New York Times, five scholars involved in law, psychiatry, and criminal justice discuss the current state of the insanity defense in light of the Tucson shootings. A nice range of viewpoints is presented, from Alan Dershowitz's argument that the insanity defense has been marginalized, politicized, and abused, to James Q. Whitman's lament that, compared to the Europeans, the American legal system is much less sympathetic towards claims of insanity due to a stronger emphasis of individual responsibility and (therefore) retribution, to David I. Bruck's plea for keeping the insanity defense based on individual responsibility and culpability.