Insanity as a Defense

January 22, 1964

Report Outline
Insanity Defense in Ruby Murder Trail
Legal Tests of Insanity in Crime Cases
Basic Differences Over Insanity Defense

Insanity Defense in Ruby Murder Trail

The Murder Trial of Jack Ruby (born Rubenstein), scheduled to open in Dallas on Feb. 3, will focus world attention on a continuing debate among lawyers and psychiatrists over the merits of various legal formulas on the use of insanity as a defense against criminal charges. Ruby's lawyers have announced that the defendant, accused of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, alleged assassin of President Kennedy, will plead not guilty by reason of insanity. The insanity plea is familiar in cases where there is incontrovertible proof that the accused committed the murder of which he is charged. There is strong likelihood that if Oswald had lived and had confessed that he killed the President, a like plea would have been entered by the lawyers undertaking his defense.

Courts in all Anglo-American jurisdictions have long recognized the principle that an individual who commits a crime as a result of mental illness or mental deficiency is not responsible for his actions and should not be punished for the offense. But the insanity plea raises many other questions on which no consensus has been reached after centuries of learned argument. The chief of these questions involves the tests to be applied in attempting to convince a judge or jury that the mental condition of the accused at the time of the crime was or was not such as to relieve him of responsibility for the act.

Events in Dallas Leading to Arrest of Ruby

The tragic sequence of events which now gives special prominence to insanity as a criminal defense began on Nov. 22 when President Kennedy, riding in an open car in Dallas, Texas, was struck in the shoulder and then in the back of the head by bullets fired from a sniper's rifle. Rushed to a hospital, the President was soon declared dead of bullet wounds.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Mental Health
Mar. 13, 2015  Prisoners and Mental Illness
Dec. 05, 2014  Treating Schizophrenia
Sep. 12, 2014  Teen Suicide
May 10, 2013  Mental Health Policy
Aug. 03, 2012  Treating ADHD
Jun. 01, 2012  Traumatic Brain Injury
Jun. 26, 2009  Treating Depression
Feb. 13, 2004  Youth Suicide
Feb. 06, 2004  Mental Illness Medication Debate
Mar. 29, 2002  Mental Health Insurance
Feb. 08, 2002  Treating Anxiety
Jul. 16, 1999  Childhood Depression
Jun. 18, 1999  Boys' Emotional Needs
Sep. 12, 1997  Mental Health Policy
Aug. 19, 1994  Prozac
Aug. 06, 1993  Mental Illness
Oct. 09, 1992  Depression
Jun. 14, 1991  Teenage Suicide
Jul. 08, 1988  Biology Invades Psychology
Feb. 13, 1987  The Mentally Ill
Aug. 20, 1982  Mental Health Care Reappraisal
Jun. 12, 1981  Youth Suicide
Sep. 21, 1979  Mental Health Care
Sep. 15, 1978  Brain Research
Jul. 05, 1974  Psychomedicine
Aug. 08, 1973  Emotionally Disturbed Children
Dec. 27, 1972  Mental Depression
Mar. 24, 1972  Schizophrenia: Medical Enigma
Apr. 21, 1971  Approaches to Death
Mar. 03, 1971  Encounter Groups
Nov. 25, 1970  Psychological Counseling of Students
Feb. 19, 1969  Future of Psychiatry
Feb. 02, 1966  New Approaches to Mental Illness
Jan. 22, 1964  Insanity as a Defense
Sep. 25, 1963  Anatomy of Suicide
Nov. 20, 1957  Drugs and Mental Health
Apr. 23, 1954  Mental Health Programs
Jul. 09, 1948  Mental Health
BROWSE RELATED TOPICS:
Mental Health
Sentencing and Corrections