CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Insanity and Really Imperfect Self Defense

My colleague, Shaun Martin, has this post at his California Appellate Report blog, critiquing a 4-3 decision of the California Supreme Court that distinguishes unreasonable mistakes from delusional ones for purposes of determining the availability of an imperfect self-defense claim. Delusional beliefs, the majority concludes, can only be raised as part of and pursuant to the limitations on the insanity defense. Here's Shaun's excerpt from the case explaining the distinction:

[U]nreasonable self-defense, as a form of mistake of fact, has no application when the defendant's actions are entirely delusional. A defendant who makes a factual mistake misperceives the objective circumstances. A delusional defendant holds a belief that is divorced from the circumstances. The line between mere misperception and delusion is drawn at the absence of an objective correlate. A person who sees a stick and thinks it is a snake is mistaken, but that misinterpretation is not delusional. One who sees a snake where there is nothing snakelike, however, is deluded.  Unreasonable self-defense was never intended to encompass reactions to threats that exist only in the defendant‟s mind.

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/crimprof_blog/2014/06/insanity-and-really-imperfect-self-defense.html

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