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June 1992

Murder, Insanity, and Medical Expert Witnesses

Arch Neurol. 1992;49(6):608-611. doi:10.1001/archneur.1992.00530300040008

• Recent advances in the ability to study brain anatomy and function and attempts to link these findings with human behavior have captured the attention of the legal system. This had led to the increasing use of the "neurological defense" to support a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. This article explores the history of the insanity defense and explores the role of the medical expert witnesses in integrating clinical and laboratory findings, eg, computed tomographic scans, magnetic resonance scans, and single-photon emission computed tomographic scans. Three cases involving murder and brain dysfunction are discussed: the first case involves a subarachnoid hemorrhage resulting in visual perceptual and memory impairment; the second case, a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease; and the third case, the controverted diagnosis of complex partial seizures in a serial killer.