San Diego Law Review

Article Title

Whither Thou Goest? An Inquiry into Jurors' Perceptions of the Consequences of a Successful Insanity Defense

Document Type



Traditionally, juries are not permitted to consider the consequences of their verdicts. The jury's function is to determine guilt or innocence by finding the facts; speculation on the defendant's fate is irrelevant to this function. The judge, not the jury, decides the post-verdict consequences. However, courts in a few jurisdictions give the insanity-consequences instruction on the supposition that without the instruction the jury will be unduly influenced against a valid insanity defense when the evidence warrants the finding of insanity. Although jurors commonly know the consequences of guilty and not guilty verdicts, they may not know the consequences of an insanity verdict. "[A] jury, influenced by the specter of violent lunatics turned loose in the community, may 'convict, despite strong evidence of insanity at the time of the crime.'" ... Sociologist Rita Simon studies the effect on experimental juries of a disclosure that the defendant would be committed to a mental institution if they returned on an NGI verdict. Whatever the merits of Dr. Simon's study, we believe that definitive answers to questions involving attitudes and behaviors of real juries cannot be made by studying hypothetical juries. In this Article, we will study the real thing.

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