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JAMA 100 Years Ago
April 15, 1998


Author Affiliations

Edited by Brian P. Pace, MA, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 1998;279(15):1232A. doi:10.1001/jama.279.15.1232

It is notorious enough that the plea of insanity in criminal cases has fallen into popular discredit and the term "insanity dodge" is characteristic of the common notion, in this regard. That this popular idea is to a certain extent erroneous is also true enough, though it may not be so easy to convince the average layman of the fact. Indeed the very cases that have made the plea unpopular may be and often are the ones in which it is most justly urged; the public furor for the execution of some imbecile or paranoiac whose crime has especially aroused popular reprobation not infrequently doubly blinds justice and leads to what is hardly morally better than lynch law under its forms. Sir JAMES MACKINTOSH or whoever else it was that made many years ago a rather formidable charge of judicial murder against the then existing English law on this account would were he living still find many instances in modern practice in this and his own country to warrant his accusations.