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SCOTUS to decide whether states may abolish the insanity defense

Kahler v. Kansas, USSC No. 18-6135, certiorari granted 3/18/10

Question presented:

Do the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense?

Decision below; USSC docket; Scotusblog page

As Scotusblog explains, Kahler was convicted of killing his, wife, kids, and his wife’s grandmother, and he was sentenced to death. His lawyers argued that he was suffering from depression so severe that he broke from reality and could not control himself. Unfortunately, Kansas does not currently have an insanity defense. So evidence of his mental illness is only relevant to whether he intended to commit the crimes. According to Scotusblog, the question is whether “the lack of an insanity defense violates the Eighth amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment, because it punishes him for the murders even though, because of his mental illness, he is not morally responsible for them, as well as the Constitution’s guarantee of Due Process.”

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