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Insanity defense: Six notorious cases when it worked


Steven Steinberg
death of a jewish american princess.jpg
Steven Steinberg became the subject of the book Death of a Jewish American Princess, seen above, thanks to a terrible thing he did while living in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1981: He stabbed his wife, Elena, 26 times with a kitchen knife.

Steinberg didn't deny killing Elena. But he claimed to have done so while sleepwalking, which technically meant he wasn't in his right mind at the time. The closest corollary to this assertion was the insanity defense.

What happened? Here's an excerpt from "A Killer Sleep Disorder," a 1998 article published by the Phoenix New Times, one of Westword's sister papers:

At trial, his attorney called witnesses to testify that Steinberg may have been sleepwalking or in a short-lived "dissociative" mental state when he stabbed his wife.

Defense attorney Bob Hirsh alleged that Steinberg's "Jewish American Princess" wife had driven him mad with nagging and spending too much money. A jury found Steinberg not guilty on the grounds that he was temporarily insane when he'd killed her. Because he was deemed "sane" at the time of his acquittal, Steinberg walked out of court a free man.

Afterward, Arizona law was changed, with judges directed to impose "guilty but insane" sentences in cases that would have been dealt with under the previous temporary insanity standard. Once the new statute was enacted, anyone found guilty but insane would have to go to a mental institution before getting the chance to hit the streets.

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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