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Despite popular belief, the insanity defense, so prominently notarized by the media, is rarely used. Andrea Yates, John Hinckley, The Menendez Brothers, Cary Stayner, Dan White and many others have either entered insanity pleas or used mental illness as a reason for their actions. In one study that was conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, it was used less than 1% of the time. In dealing with schizophrenics, it is important for students to realize that not all schizophrenic sufferers are violent. As a matter of fact, approximately 1% are prone to violence against others. With these facts in mind, please reflect upon the Essential Question as posed.

Essential Question:

Do insanity pleas serve a useful and meaningful purpose in our society?

Subsidiary Questions To Consider Throughout This Unit:

  1. How have insanity pleas evolved over the past few decades?
  2. What are some of the significant events and court cases that have changed society’s view of insanity pleas?
  3. How would you feel if a loved one or friend was murdered and the murderer claimed insanity?
  4. What would it be like to participate in a murder trial in which an insanity plea was used?
  5. What is schizophrenia and what are its symptoms?
  6. What part does changing public attitude play in our society?
Essential Question
Content Standards
Lesson Plan
Anticipation Guide
Directed Reading Guide
Mock Trial Order of Events
Mock Trial Facts
Mock Trial Roles

Urban Dreams
OUSD Curriculum Unit
Insanity Defense Pleas
Subject: Psychology/Government
Grade Level: 12th

Lesson Plan Author:
Pat Tinloy
Organization: OUSD