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Mental Insanity as a Defense

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To plead the defense of insanity suggests that the defendant committed the act, but was not legally culpable.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Criminal Homicide Attorney, Harrisburg, PA

Insanity is a defense to homicide or murder in PA.  Legal insanity is grounds for complete acquittal in Pennsylvania.  The defendant bears the initial burden of proving the affirmative defense of legal insanity.  The verdict of "not guilty by reason of insanity" means that the defendant did commit the act, but because of his mental illness he cannot be legally responsible.  In other words, a defense of insanity acknowledges commission of the act by the defendant, while maintaining the absence of legal culpability.  The test of legal insanity is not whether the defendant was mentally ill from a medical viewpoint, but whether the defendant knew what he was doing and knew that it was wrong.

For example:

Testimony which suggested that the defendant purposefully committed the criminal acts in a secluded spot, that he purposefully fled from the scene when a car approached, that he attempted to destroy evidence and to disguise his appearance, and that he knew that he had killed someone, and that it was wrong to do so, was sufficient to rebut the defendant's insanity defense.

If you've been charged with murder and believe that a defense of legal insanity may apply, you need to speak with experienced legal counsel.  You will need to be examined by a medical expert to determine if your defense is valid.  You may contact Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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