The Supreme Court holds its Long Conference tomorrow (10/1/19) and the October sitting begins on Monday, October 7. I will preview some of the more interesting cases, in separate threads, starting with this one, the first case of the term.
Docket for 18-6135 *** CAPITAL CASE *** (Supreme Court docket #18-6135.
Issue : Whether the Eighth and 14th Amendments permit a state to abolish the insanity defense.
The Petitioner in this case killed his ex-wife, his ex-mother in law and his two daughters. The sequence of events leading up to the murders and his purported mental state are detailed in the Petition. After being denied the insanity defense under Kansas law, he was sentenced to death.
While relatively few States have abolished the insanity defense, a Kansas victory will likely encourage more States to do so. The United States filed an amicus brief supporting Respondent Kansas and will participate in oral arguments as amicus.
This is not an issue of constitutional interpretation per se. Rather, the question is whether this departure from long standing English common law creates a breach significant enough to violate the 8th and 14th amendments.
I cannot say for sure how this will go.
While it might seem like the 5 conservative justices would rule for the Respondent on the face of things, some may not wish to allow such a departure from long standing common law.
In any event, even if the Petitioner wins and gets a new trial, the insanity defense has a low percentage of success, about 26% when it is presented, and it is only presented in less than 1% of criminal cases.
Frankly, I would just stick with the longstanding common law approach. This was never even an issue until John Hinckley.