At issue in Kahler v. Kansas, which was recently argued before the Supreme Court, is whether the Eighth and 14th Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense. Kahler, who in 2009 shot and killed his wife, two daughters and his wife’s grandmother, was convicted of murder and sentenced to death.
But his lawyers claim that he was improperly denied the opportunity to argue that he’s not guilty of murder in connection with the shootings because he was insane at the time.
Kansas law does not permit criminal defendants to argue they were insane when they committed a crime. Instead, the law there allows a defendant “to argue that he could not have intended to commit the crime because of his mental illness but makes clear that mental illness ‘is not otherwise a defense,’” according to legal analyst Amy Howe.
“My guess is that the court is going to have a hard time finding a right to an insanity defense in the Eighth Amendment,” said University of Illinois law Professor Andrew Leipold. “But I wouldn’t bet a lot of money on it.”
Leipold said “even people who are legally insane can still ‘intend.’” The question, he said, is often what’s driving intent, like a person hearing voices telling him to kill.
Read the full article at news-gazette.com.