Insanity Defense Rules and Standards

This activity provides you with a base understanding of the different cognitive and behavioral symptoms that are characteristic to all criminal psychopaths though the kind and severity of symptoms of criminal psychopathy vary with the individual. You should look at the various cognitive and behavioral symptoms as a spectrum of colors where one blends into the other. Individual criminal psychopaths may have more of one symptom and less of another, but it varies and is often unique to the individual.


You are tasked to watch a short video clip about psychopathy by forensic psychiatrist, Michael Stone, MD. Also, view the Bundy video. After viewing the clips, please answer the following questions.

  • In what ways did the experiences in childhood nurture the seeds of psychopathic behavior and mindsets in adolescence and subsequent adulthood?
  • Identify and describe in detail the cognitive and behavioral symptoms that characterize a psychopathic personality, and explain why you think that these individuals would be particularly difficult to successfully treat in a clinical setting.
  • Indicate in what ways criminal psychopaths differ from non-criminal psychopaths and how are non-criminal psychopaths detected in society. Please support your answers with the text and literature.

Video Clips with Dr. Michael Stone

View the following:

The Scale of Evil: Dr. Michael Stone.

Ted Bundy, Interview by Dr. James Dobson in 1989 Before Execution


Please post your response in the Forum by midnight (MT) Wednesday. Make sure that you justify and support your response. Also, please post a response to at least two other student answers by midnight (MT) Sunday. Please refer to the syllabus for points associated with this activity.

Discussion Question: Insanity Defense Rules and Standards


This activity will familiarize you with the various rules and standards of the insanity defense. When a mentally disordered offender is arrested, it must be determined if he is competent to stand trial. If it is determined that the offender is competent to stand trial, she is held responsible for any crimes that she may have committed. You will see that the concepts of criminal responsibility and “not guilty by reason of insanity” can be complex issues, not only for mental health professionals, but also for the courts.


You are tasked to identify and describe in detail the historical evolution of the legal standards for insanity in the United States. Explain why the Tarasoff case had a national impact on the practice of law and mental health treatment. How do you see the insanity defense evolving further in the future? Use literature and examples to support your position.

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