John Burkoff on the Insanity Defense

Professor John Burkoff was quoted by the Pittsburgh Tribune Review in a story on the likelihood that an insanity defense might succeed for a woman accused of killing a pregnant teenager.

John Burkoff, a University of Pittsburgh law professor, said a suspect’s actions can show the “person is clearly crazy, but that does not mean he or she is insane.”

Burkoff authored “Criminal Offenses & Defenses in Pennsylvania,” a reference book for lawyers and judges. Juries generally don’t return not-guilty verdicts based on insanity, he said.

“Juries often have a concern that people who seem to be crazy, if they get an insanity (verdict), might end up back on the streets,” he said.

The defense is particularly difficult in Pennsylvania because state law gives juries the option of finding a defendant “guilty but mentally ill,” he said. That allows juries to recommend psychiatric treatment for a defendant sent to prison.

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