Insanity defense: Six notorious cases when it worked

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One of the central questions in the case of accused Aurora theater shooter James Holmes involves whether his attorneys will employ the insanity defense. The legal tactic has been used many times in mass slayings and other shocking crimes, and not always effectively: Note that serial killers John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer both claimed insanity but were convicted anyway. But the plea has succeeded in a number of high-profile instances -- among them the following six, two of which have Colorado ties, including one trial that ended just a year ago. Check them out below.

Daniel Sickles

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History recalls Sickles as a politician, a general for the Union forces and a diplomat. But today, he's perhaps best remembered as the father of the temporary insanity defense.

Sickles was embroiled in numerous kerfuffles during his time in public life -- such as when he had his wrist slapped by legislators for inviting a prostitute named Fanny White into the New York State Assembly. (He supposedly introduced Fanny to Queen Victoria, too.) But this was nothing compared to the scandal that followed his shooting of Philip Barton Key II, son of "Star Spangled Banner" writer Francis Scott Key, in Lafayette Square, across the street from the White House, in 1859. At the time, he was a U.S. Congressman.

The dead man was a prominent Washington, D.C. figure, having served as district attorney. But Sickles, who surrendered to the U.S. Attorney General after the shooting and confessed to the crime, appears to have had much more powerful political pals, including President James Buchanan and Edwin Stanton, who would become President Abraham Lincoln's Secretary of War. And he'd need them, since his claim that he had been driven temporarily insane by his wife's infidelity was untested at the time.

But it worked. Sickles was acquitted of the murder, with the verdict allowing him to remain in Congress. Really.

Continue to read more notorious examples of when the insanity defense worked.


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1 comments
Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

The insanity defense is as effective as prosecuting a police officer . Beyond rare !...

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