There have been some infamous cases surrounding the insanity defense. One of the first occurred in 1859 and involved Defendant New York Congressman and Civil War General Dan Sickles, and victim Washington D.C. District Attorney Philip Barton Key, the son of poet Francis Scott Key who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. The temporary insanity defense worked, Defendant Sickles was found not guilty and applauded by the community at the time for protecting the women from an adulterer the likes of victim Key. Click here to read the details of this case.
An insanity defense is admitting to the physical act of the crime, but then the defendant asserts they are not responsible for their actions due to mental health problems. This assertion takes place at the trial to a jury. Minnesota does not recognize an insanity defense, but instead does allow for a defense of mental illness or deficiency. There are differences between the two forms of defense. The burden is on the Defendant to prove the mental illness or deficiency to the jury by a preponderance of the evidence. The actual defense, if the case goes to trial, and notice requirements are noted in Criminal Rules of Procedure 9.02, subd. 1(5).
Minnesota Rule of Criminal Procedure 20.01 and 20.02 cover acts the defendant claims are the result of mental health issues. Rule 20.01 covers whether a person is competent to participate in the proceedings, or assist in their defense. If a person is not competent to proceed and the case is a felony or gross misdemeanor, the case is then stayed for a period of time to see if competency is restored. If competency is restored, the case then proceeds to trial. If competency is not restored, the government must file a motion within the time lines prescribed to extend the commitment of the Defendant pursuant to the rule. Rule 20.01, is about whether the case can proceed.
Rule 20.02, addresses the issue of proceeding to trial on the defense of mental illness or deficiency. This rule covers the medical examination reports and the commitment proceedings if a person is found not guilty by mental illness or deficiency.
If you have any questions as to how mental illness is addressed in our Courts, please give me a call at 651-200-3484