When is someone not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect? Forensic evaluation of a legal insanity defense involves a careful analysis of the actions and ideas leading up to the crime, coordinating with witness statements, police investigation, and crime lab and medical examiner's reports. Inquiry by the forensic psychiatrist must apply to the laws and standards and burdens of proof of each state.
Scientific Standard for Legal Insanity Defense
In our scientific experience, legal insanity is a difficult standard to achieve. The forensic psychiatry assessment of a legal insanity defense is complicated by defendants who may be withholding because the expert examination requires that the defendant admit factual guilt. Malingering and the defendant’s horror of recalling what he or she did may also impede the expert assessment of mental state at the time of the crime.
Psychiatrists of The Forensic Panel have the experience with the subtleties of psychosis and the thoroughness required in a forensic criminal responsibility matter to provide expert insight into crimes that often make little sense to the outside observer of forensic court cases. Our forensic examination begins with the willingness to engage each of the diagnoses that affect the perception of reality, and continues with careful chronicling of symptoms present and absent. At the same time, The Forensic Panel recognizes the forensic importance of investigative diligence that collects input from witnesses, confidantes, contemporaneous and prior relevant internet, email, cell phone and spending activity. Structured tests for assessing criminal responsibility & whether an insanity defense is legitimate may contribute, but do not take the place of careful history gathering that controls for unreliable or misrepresented information.
Legal Insanity Assessment
Whether a forensic case requires an expert witness assessment of legal insanity defense, or examines whether a defendant was guilty but mentally ill, the forensic psychiatrist focuses beyond the insanity defense diagnosis itself to discern whether the defendant was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her actions, or to conform his or her conduct (depending on the state). The Forensic Panel’s unrivaled attention to detail reconstructs the events leading up to the crime to resolve such questions. While we use the available investigative file, we recognize that questions relevant to forensic psychiatry may differ from those most pertinent to law enforcement. If need be, the examining psychiatrist of The Forensic Panel will interview witnesses on fine points that we identify as pivotal to resolving the psychiatric-legal insanity defense question.
Through peer review, The Forensic Panel’s insanity defense examinations receive the expert oversight and input that ensures attention to the most important collateral sources, and a forensic synthesis that reflects the state of the art of forensic psychiatry and criminal responsibility.