(For your paper – write on this, or any other issues related to our treatment of the mentally ill such as asylums or over-medication)
In 1981 failed musician John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan firing 6 shots from a pistol towards Reagan as he left a rally. Several in the presidential entourage were hit, including Reagan, though he would recover and no one was killed. In the trial a year later – Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Evidence had come out that Hinckley had been obsessed with actress Jodie Foster, and had attempted the assassination to get her attention. He also had a history of taking anti-depressants.
Americans were furious with the “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict. In an ABC News poll 83% of Americans thought “justice was not done” in the case and there was an outpouring of anger against the insanity defense. Legislation was passed to restrict use of the insanity defense. Read more, including interesting primary sources on this trial: http://law2.umkc.edu/faculty/projects/ftrials/hinckley/hinckleyaccount.html (Use two other articles if you are writing a paper.)
Today the insanity defense is used rarely – only in 1-2% of felony cases, and it is only successful 25% of the time. But should it be used at all? Are there evil people getting away with murder? Or are we inappropriately punishing the mentally ill?