throbber
1
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` Cite as: 568 U. S. ____ (2012)
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`BREYER, J., dissenting
`
`SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
`JOHN JOSEPH DELLING v. IDAHO
`ON PETITION FOR WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME
`
`
`COURT OF IDAHO
`
`No. 11–1515. Decided November 26, 2012
`
`The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied.
`JUSTICE BREYER, with whom JUSTICE GINSBURG and
`
`
`JUSTICE SOTOMAYOR
`join, dissenting from denial of
`
`
` certiorari.
`The law has long recognized that criminal punishment
`
`is not appropriate for those who, by reason of insanity,
`cannot tell right from wrong. See 4 W. Blackstone,
`Commentaries on the Laws of England 24–25 (1769);
`M’Naghten’s Case, 10 Cl. & Fin. 200, 8 Eng. Rep. 718
`(1843). The insanity defense in nearly every State incor-
`porates this principle. See Clark v. Arizona, 548 U. S.
`735, 750–752 (2006) (noting that all but four States recog-
`nize some version of the insanity defense); R. Bonnie, A.
`Coughlin, J. Jeffries, & P. Low, Criminal Law 604 (3d ed.
`2010) (same). If a defendant establishes an insanity de-
`fense, he is not criminally liable, though the government
`may confine him civilly for as long as he continues to pose
`a danger to himself or to others by reason of his mental
`
`illness. Jones v. United States, 463 U. S. 354, 370 (1983).
`
`Idaho and a few other States have modified this tra-
`ditional insanity defense. Indeed, Idaho provides that
`“[m]ental condition shall not be a defense to any charge of
`
`criminal conduct.” Idaho Code §18–207(1) (Lexis 2004).
`Another provision of the same statute provides, however,
`that the above restriction is not “intended to prevent the
`admission of expert evidence on the issue of any state of
`mind which is an element of the offense.” §18–207(3). And
`
`the Idaho courts have made clear that prosecutors are
`“‘still required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a
`
`
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`
`
`

`
`2
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`
`DELLING v. IDAHO
`
`BREYER, J., dissenting
`
`defendant had the mental capacity to form the necessary
`intent.”’ 152 Idaho 122, 125, 267 P. 3d 709, 712 (2011)
`
`(quoting State v. Card, 121 Idaho 425, 430, 825 P. 2d 1081,
`1086 (1991)). Thus, in Idaho, insanity remains relevant to
`
`criminal liability, but only in respect to intent. Insanity
`continues to have relevance at sentencing as well. A court
`must “receiv[e]” evidence of mental condition at sentenc-
`ing and, if mental condition proves to be a “significant
`
`factor,” must consider a string of issues deemed relevant
`to punishment, including, notably, “[t]he capacity of the
`
`defendant to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.”
`Idaho Code §19–2523 (Lexis 2004). In addition, if the
`court imposes a prison sentence on a person who “suffers
`from any mental condition requiring treatment,” Idaho
`law appears to mandate that “the defendant shall receive
`treatment” in an appropriate facility. See §18–207(2).
`
`Still, the step that Idaho has taken is significant. As
`that State’s courts recognize, it “‘may allow the conviction
`of persons who may be insane by some former insanity
`test or medical standard, but who nevertheless have the
`ability to form intent and to control their actions.”’ 152
`Idaho, at 125, 267 P. 3d, at 712. That is, the difference
`between the traditional insanity defense and Idaho’s
`standard is that the latter permits the conviction of an
`individual who knew what he was doing, but had no capac-
`ity to understand that it was wrong.
`
`To illustrate with a very much simplified example:
`Idaho law would distinguish the following two cases. Case
`One: The defendant, due to insanity, believes that the
`victim is a wolf. He shoots and kills the victim. Case Two:
`The defendant, due to insanity, believes that a wolf, a
`supernatural figure, has ordered him to kill the victim. In
`Case One, the defendant does not know he has killed a
`
`human being, and his insanity negates a mental element
`necessary to commit the crime. Cf. Clark, supra, at 767–
`768 (offering a similar example of how mental illness may
`
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`

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`3
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` Cite as: 568 U. S. ____ (2012)
`
`BREYER, J., dissenting
`
`
` rebut mens rea). In Case Two, the defendant has inten-
`tionally killed a victim whom he knows is a human be-
`ing; he possesses the necessary mens rea. In both cases the
`defendant is unable, due to insanity, to appreciate the true
`quality of his act, and therefore unable to perceive that it
`is wrong. But in Idaho, the defendant in Case One could
`
`defend the charge by arguing that he lacked the mens rea,
`whereas the defendant in Case Two would not be able to
`raise a defense based on his mental illness. Much the
`same outcome seems likely to occur in other States that
`
`have modified the insanity defense in similar ways. For
`
`example, in State v. Bethel, 276 Kan. 456, 459, 66 P. 3d
`
`840, 843 (Kan. 2003), the prosecution and defense agreed
`that under a similar Kansas statute, evidence that a
`schizophrenic defendant’s “mental state precluded him
`from understanding the difference between right and
`wrong or from understanding the consequences of his
`
`actions . . . does not constitute a defense to the charged
`crimes.”
`
`The American Psychiatric Association tells us that
`
`“severe mental illness can seriously impair a sufferer’s
`ability rationally to appreciate the wrongfulness of con-
`duct.” Brief for American Psychiatric Association et al. as
`Amici Curiae 15. And other amici tell us that those seri-
`ously mentally ill individuals often possess the kind of
`
`mental disease that Case Two describes—that is to say,
`they know that the victim is a human being, but due to
`
`mental illness, such as a paranoid delusion, they wrongly
`believe the act is justified. Brief for 52 Criminal Law and
`Mental Health Law Professors 10. In view of these sub-
`missions, I would grant the petition for certiorari to con-
`sider whether Idaho’s modification of the insanity defense
`is consistent with the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Pro-
`cess Clause.

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