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Ruling Could Make Insanity Defense More Challenging

This article is more than 10 years old.

A ruling by the state's highest court on Monday may make it more difficult for prosecutors to challenge insanity claims.

The Supreme Judicial Court said lawyers making the insanity defense are required to turn over a report — but not detailed notes — from psychiatric evaluations.

Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly reporter David Frank says such detailed information can be crucial in insanity cases.

"Typically when you have an insanity defense go to trial you're dealing with a battle of the experts," Frank said, "and so when either side is preparing their case, it's always helpful to know exactly what the other expert is going to say."

Frank says the ruling will affect how prosecutors challenge the insanity defense in the future.

"What the SJC said here," Frank said, "was it was unfair and improper to require the defendants to turnover all these notes prior to trial that deal with the insanity issue."

The ruling Monday overturns the first-degree murder conviction of a West Springfield woman who claimed she was insane when she stabbed her husband to death. The court ruled the woman's insanity defense case was weakened because her lawyers were compelled to share too much information with prosecutors.

This program aired on July 19, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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