This is insanity! Offender mental diagnosis on trial

Courtney P Crutchfield, Tennessee State University


The purpose of this study was to examine the prevalence of diagnoses among individuals who have pled the insanity defense. Once the diagnoses had been identified, an examination of the relationship of diagnosis and success at getting the insanity defense was also evaluated. The insanity defense, or not guilty by reason of insanity, has at its core the belief that there are some individuals with a mental disease who were unable to make a rational decision at the time of committing a criminal act (Martin, 1998). The primary hypothesis for this investigation was that there will be more Axis I diagnoses that occur in individuals who actually plead the insanity defense versus Axis II diagnoses. It was also hypothesized that gender, ethnicity, criminal history, psychiatric history, and treatment history will be factors in determining if an insanity defense was granted. The sample included 210 inmates who were housed on the jail unit at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute between the years of 2004-2007. Forensic Conference Reports and clinical interviews of previous inmates were reviewed for demographic information (race, gender, and age) and previous psychiatric history, and previous treatment history. Results indicated that criminal history, current diagnosis, and ethnicity were significant predictors that may influence the successful use of the insanity defense. These findings were consistent with previous research. Implications for this investigation are discussed in terms of the successful use of the insanity defense and mental health diagnoses. Recommendations for future research are suggested.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Clinical psychology|Criminology

Recommended Citation

Courtney P Crutchfield, "This is insanity! Offender mental diagnosis on trial" (2009). ETD Collection for Tennessee State University. Paper AAI3369438.