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This guide directs legal researchers to resources on the use of Psychiatric Testimony in federal courts.
Last Updated: May 24, 2013 URL: Print Guide RSS Updates

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About This Research Guide

The intent of this research guide is to highlight sources available for legal research on the use of Psychiatric Testimony in federal courts.

The guide will direct the researcher to:

  • Statutes
  • Seminal Case Law
  • Secondary Sources
  • Books, Journals and Scholarly Articles
  • News and Blog Sources
  • Video of psychiatric experts.

Related Research Guides

Health Law Research Guide by Jack McNeill, Pace Law Library  - provides further sources on the insanity defense, laws relating to sexual offenders and links to mental illness and the death penalty. Last updated: 08/02/2012.
Prisoners' Rights Law Resources by Margaret Moreland, Pace Law Library - provides resources regarding the jailing of the mentally ill, prisoner rights and links to reports concerning why incarceration of individuals with serious mental illness violates public health, ethical and constitutional principles. Last updated: 03/11/2013.

A General Introduction to Psychiatric Testimony

A Brief History of Psychiatric Testimony in U.S. Courts

American courts first adopted the test of insanity established in the M’Naughten Case,  which created a presumption of sanity, unless the defense proved that at the time of the act, the party was so mentally diseased he did know it was wrong.

In 1897, the Supreme Court in Davis v. United States, 165 U.S. 373 (1897), added the concept of ‘irresistible impulse’ to M’Naughten.

In 1954, the District of Columbia Circuit simplified the Davis test, getting rid of the concept of irresistible impulse, excusing in Durham v. United States, 214 F.2d 862 (D.C. Cir. 1954) unlawful acts which were the product of mental disease or defect.

Durham was eventually overruled by United States v. Brawner, 471 F.2d 969 (D.C. Cir. 1972), which developed a new two-pronged test that was eventually adopted by the American Law Institute'sModel Penal Code Test for Insanity.

John Hinckley Jr's successful use of the insanity defense to escape conviction in an assassination attempt of U.S. President Ronald Reagan, led Congress in 1984 to pass the
Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, 18 U.S.C. § 17 which required clear and convincing evidence to prove this defense.

Congress further updated the Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE), adding section (b) to Rule 704, putting limits on expert witness testimony.

Guide Author

Fred Pix

Fred Clarke

Juris Doctor Expected May 2014
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