Web Quest: Real Trials and the Insanity Defense

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Web Quest: Real Trials and the Insanity Defense

Go to http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/crime/trial/history.html



  1. Explain the Right/Wrong M’Naughten test.

  2. What is the “Irresistible Impulse” rule with pleading insanity?

  3. What was the ruling in the John Hinckley Jr. case for shooting President Reagan? How did the public respond?

  4. How did the burden of proof shift in the “Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984?”

  5. What does Guilty but Mentally Ill mean? What legally happens to the person who is given this verdict?

Go to http://trial.laws.com/plea/insanity-plea

  1. What does it mean when a defendant employs the insanity defense?

  2. What must happen in order for the insanity plea to be effective?

  3. What happens if it is proven that the defendant could not distinguish between right and wrong at the time of the criminal act?

Go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/07/aurora-shootings-colorado-james-holmes

  1. How did the police describe James Holmes after the Colorado movie theater massacre?

  2. What is James Holms accused of doing?

  3. How did Officer Jason Oviatt describe James Holmes emotions?

  4. What did Holmes Lawyers say about the mental state of their client?

Go to http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57497820/james-holmes-saw-three-mental-health-professionals-before-shooting/

  1. How many mental health professionals had James Holmes met with prior to the massacre?

  2. Was James Holmes in school, and if so, what was he studying?

  3. What could we infer about the intelligence of James Holmes based on his academic interests/work?

Go to http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-201_162-57568006/colorado-bill-will-make-it-harder-to-plead-insanity/

  1. How are Colorado lawmakers attempting to make it more difficult to use the insanity plea?

  2. What does the current law of Colorado require prosecutors to do in relation to using the insanity plea?

  3. How would this change make it more difficult to successfully use the insanity defense?

  4. Based on what you know now, should James Holmes use the insanity defense? Why/Why not?

Go to http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/mar/12/judge-approves-truth-serum-james-holmes

  1. What did the judge approve to be used in the case of James Holmes?

  2. Why would the prosecution want to use this method of interrogation?

  3. Do you think this will be effective in getting the truth out? Why/Why not?

Go to http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/27/trial-date-aurora-shooting_n_4865354.html

  1. What sentence are prosecutors seeking now in the James Holmes case?

  2. What plea is James Holmes now giving in court?



  1. Based on your knowledge of Psychological disorders, and based on the evidence that has been presented in multiple articles, what disorder do you believe James Holmes may suffer from, if any? Why do you think this?



  1. If you were the PROSECUTION and had to prove he was SANE at the time of the killings, what information would you include in your argument?



  1. If you were the DEFENSE and had to prove he was INSANE at the time of the killings, what information would you include in your argument?


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