United States v. Brawner

471 F.2d 969 — superseded by statute
Brief Filed: 5/71
Court: United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit
Year of Decision: 1972

Read the full-text amicus brief (PDF, 649KB)

Issue

Whether, in insanity defense cases, (1) the medical model should be abandoned, and (2) the results of psychological tests like the Rorschach should be admissible

Index Topics

Insanity Defense; Tests (Use, Validity, & Security of Psychological Tests & Test Data)

Facts

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit asked APA and several other groups to submit amicus briefs in answer to six questions on the insanity defense.

APA's Position

APA's brief dealt with two of the questions: whether (1) the medical model should be abandoned, and (2) the results of psychological tests like the Rorschach should be admissible. APA argued that: (1) current court practice recognizes non-medical expertise; (2) mental illness is largely a metaphor; (3) psychologists should be allowed to testify in court; (4) various changes in the language of the insanity rule should be considered; (5) tests are one tool for assessment, and are superior to interviews alone; and (6) the instructions to the jury should indicate that the jury has the ultimate decision but that it should take psychological tests into consideration unless expert opinion suggests otherwise.

Results

The D.C. Circuit unanimously rejected APA's major suggestion to disentangle the insanity defense from the medical model saying it was not sure of the practical consequences of such a decision. The ruling limited the kind of information that might be presented, but not who presents it. The court reaffirmed repeatedly the legitimacy of behavioral science input. It reprimanded the prosecutor for his disparaging remarks concerning "ink blots" and made it clear that it would regard such evidence as relevant until demonstrated otherwise. However, the court did not make explicit reference to psychological tests in its formal rules or its model jury instructions.