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The Insanity Defense

The insanity defense has raised its head again in the federal trial Brian David Mitchell for kidnapping Elizabeth Smart.  Jennifer Dobner reports for AP:

A clinical psychologist for a federal prison hospital says a former street preacher charged in the abduction of Elizabeth Smart believes he will fight and defeat the anti-Christ.

Dr. Richart DeMier testified Thursday that he diagnosed defendant Brian David Mitchell as a paranoid schizophrenic after being ordered by a court to evaluate him in 2008.
During earlier testimony, 

Kidnap victim Elizabeth Smart stormed from a Utah courtroom Wednesday as a psychiatrist testified that her alleged attacker had been motivated by a desire to have children and create a new race in an imaginary Zion.
It must indeed be very difficult for Miss Smart to listen to all this. Her fortitude during this trial is quite admirable, and it is not surprising that it gets too much to take at some point.

Congress cut back on the insanity defense after the John Hinckley fiasco.  18 U.S.C. §17, enacted in 1984, provides:
(a) Affirmative Defense.-- It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under any Federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense.

(b) Burden of Proof.-- The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.
That is a standard rarely met, and rightly so. A defendant who is acquitted under this standard can be committed under 18 U.S.C. §4243.

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