10 Uses of the Insanity Defense

Andrew Goldstein
Most people don’t think too much about the inherent dangers of standing on a subway platform awaiting a train, but Kendra Webdale’s death was a grim reminder of this everyday risk. © Jon Hicks/Corbis

Andrew Goldstein pushed Kendra Webdale in from of the N train at the 23rd Street station in New York City on Jan. 3, 1999 during a psychotic episode.

Goldstein was a rising star as a teenager, attending the Bronx High School of Science, but began having delusions during his freshman year of college. In 1989, he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital after pushing his mother; Goldstein was diagnosed with schizophrenia. After his release, he continued to experience delusions, psychosis and paranoia, and his violent behavior continued. In 1996, he was hospitalized for attacking a woman on a subway, and would continue to spend time in and out of care between then and the day he found himself in the same subway station as Webdale. In fact, Goldstein was voluntarily hospitalized a total of 13 times in 1997 and 1998, the two years before he killed Webdale, and was released into outpatient care just a few weeks before the attack [source: Magnus, PBS].

Goldstein's been on trial three times for the murder of Webdale. He pleaded insanity in his first trial, which ended with a hung jury, and again during his second trial in 2000, where the jury found him guilty of second-degree murder. After the highest court threw out his second case due to unsubstantiated testimony, Goldstein went to trial for the third time in 2005 -- this time he pled guilty to first degree manslaughter, and was sentenced to 23 years in prison plus 5 years of probation.

Goldstein's case inspired Kendra's law, New York state legislation that allows courts to order involuntary outpatient treatment for anyone with severe mental illness and a mental illness and treatment history suggesting he or she may not be able to live safely within the community without supervision.