- Published: November 7, 2012
- Written by Angela Lin
Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik, who confessed to murdering 77 people in a violent bombing and shooting spree in July 2011, objected to an initial psychiatric report that diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.1 Breivik deemed such a such a diagnosis humiliating, while the families of some of his victims wanted him to be legally responsible for his actions.1 Though Breivik was eventually determined to be sane and fit to stand trial, the question stands - should a defendant be allowed to reject the insanity defense, even if s/he is found by experts to fit the legal standard for insanity?
In the United States, the case of Frendak v. United States established that a judge could not impose an insanity defense against the defendant's will, as ruled by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.2 Yet over the past hundred years, various appeals courts have upheld the authority of a trial court to impose an insanity defense on an unwilling defendant, and different jurisdictions have different statues or case laws permitting the imposition of the insanity defense against the defendant's wishes.3 With the interest of preventing recidivism, an individual who has some psychopathy that causes criminal behavior should be diagnosed and treated. Practically speaking, however, if a defendant is deemed fit to stand trial, it follows that s/he should not be considered insane at the time of trial, even if s/he may legally be determined to have been insane at the time of the crime, and should not be forced to enter an insanity defense.