Legal Reform

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On the afternoon of March 30, 1981, our nation was shocked with the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan. President Reagan was leaving a scheduled appearance when John Hinkley shot the President. He was able to fire six shots. Of those shots, two killed secret service agent Timothy McCarthy and police officer Thomas Delahanty, one maimed press secretary James Brady, two hit inanimate objects, and the last one hit the President . John Hinkley was immediately subdued and taken into custody. The events of that March afternoon and the subsequent trial lead many to question the need for reform in our legal system. The trial of John Hinkley concluded in 1982 with a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. The American public was outraged the he would not be held responsible for his actions and thought it was too easy for juries to give a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. This caused the legal community to examine the defense of insanity. The insanity defense can be traced as far back as ancient Rome . Throughout legal history many tests have played a role in determining whether or not a person was deemed sane. Different tests looked at different traits such as the ability to reason, the ability to comprehend right and wrong, and whether a person was mentally ill. The American Law Institute took an interest in all of the tests as well as psychological aspects of criminals and drafted the Model Penal Code test in 1962 . This was the test in place at the time of the Hinkley trial. During the Hinkley trial, psychiatric experts testified for both sides in reference to his sanity. They testified to Hinkley’s past, the events leading up to the assassination, whether or not he was mentally ill, and their opinions on his sanity at the time of the occurrence. This ultimately led to confusion of the jury due to the conflicting information . This brought about the questions of what information psychiatric experts...
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