Interest and debate have greatly increased over the Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) plea since the 1970s. The legal definition of insanity as understood by Dunn, Cowan, and Downs (2006) is, “a person is thought insane if he or she is incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his or her act of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offense.” There are several investigations needed in the area of NGRIs plea, especially in the area of gender. Research on gender is needed because of its potential to influence the presentation and formation of the rule of law. Throughout many cultures the general assumption is that men are significantly more aggressive than women, whereas women often are characterized by passive and communal traits (Yourstone, 2007 ). Public opinion on insanity cases is often viewed negatively. Furthermore, the public often believe that insanity defendants go free after they are found NGRI. However, according to Dunn et al., (2006), “the NGRI sits at the low end of the ultimate outcome measure, whereas the death penalty sits at the high end.” The public in general view a mentally ill person as dangerous. The main reason for this is the media’s inaccurate perceptions of the mentally ill as violent (Breheney, 2007). Another problem is the public generally overestimates the insanity defense success rate. According to Breheney et al., (2007), “There are nine insanity pleas for every 1,000 felony cases of which 26% (about two) are successful.” However, the argument has been that insanity defenses are used as a means of escaping severe penalties in the most serious of crimes. Several questions arise from this topic in both psychology and law. It is important for research to focus on the demographic characteristics of people using the insanity plea, such as, gender differences, committed crime differences and jury decision outcomes on the influences of these individual differences. The main focus of this paper will thoroughly examine how female NGRIs differ from males, particularly in regard to their clinical and criminal background that might be relevant to procedural change.
Literature Review Search:
I will aim to answer these questions throughout my paper by examining past studies. I obtained all of my literature review articles through PsychInfo through the Lake Forest College Library Database.
Keywords: Human Sex Differences, Gender, Insanity Defense, NGRI, not guilty by reason of insanity
Demographics of Insanity Pleas
Pasewark , Pantle, and Steadman (1979), conducted an archival study that focused on the characteristics and personality of NGRI acquittees in the state of New York. This study looked at gender differences in prior hospitalization history, criminal history, victims, and mental diagnosis after acquittal. Results showed that 56% of the men and 72% of the women had no prior hospitalization before being found NGRI. In addition, results...