10 Uses of the Insanity Defense


John Delling

Even though Delling’s case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, his petition was denied, and he is unable to use the insanity defense in Idaho, where his crime took place. © Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis
Even though Delling’s case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, his petition was denied, and he is unable to use the insanity defense in Idaho, where his crime took place. © Joseph Sohm/Visions of America/Corbis

In 2007, John Delling shot three men, killing two and wounding the third, concerned someone was stealing his powers [source: Boone]. Delling is a paranoid schizophrenic who experiences severe delusions and violent outbursts, and he is serving two life sentences in solitary confinement and without parole in the Idaho prison system as his punishment -- despite the prosecution and the judge agreeing that his mental illness both led to and impaired his understanding of his crimes. Why didn't Delling use the insanity defense? Because Idaho, where he was convicted, doesn't recognize a person's right to plead not guilty by reason of insanity.

Delling's case has put the spotlight on whether or not the insanity defense is a Constitutional right, protected under the Eighth or Fourteenth Amendments. Delling appealed to the Idaho Supreme Court, which in 2011 upheld 4th District Judge Deborah Bail's original ruling. In 2012, Delling's lawyers appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, where in November 2012 the petition was denied, continuing to keep the insanity defense out of Idaho.

Author's Note: 10 Uses of the Insanity Defense

I admit that I never knew Andrew Jackson was so tough -- how did I miss this all these years? While most of us would likely duck and cover -- or do whatever we could to get out of there, and fast -- when a man points a loaded gun at us, Jackson instead attacked his attacker and beat him with his cane. How times, and security, have changed.

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The Ambush and Death of Gangster John Dillinger

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Dillinger was responsible for 10 deaths, three jail breaks and some 20 bank robberies. HowStuffWorks takes a look at how he was finally stopped.