The competency of criminal defendants to refuse, for delusional reasons, a viable insanity defense recommended by counsel

Behav Sci Law. 2003;21(2):135-56. doi: 10.1002/bsl.527.


This article addresses the issues of whether mentally ill defendants charged with serious crimes who refuse to plead a viable and counsel-recommended insanity defense for delusional reasons (but who are otherwise competent to stand trial) should be considered to be competent, or incompetent, to stand trial; whether such defendants should be allowed to represent themselves with a delusional defense; and whether an insanity defense may properly be imposed upon such defendants. Based on an analysis of relevant Supreme Court decisions and other relevant cases, it is concluded that such defendants should not be allowed to go forward with a delusional defense (at least until reasonable efforts to treat the defendants' delusions are made). It is also argued, however, that unless an insanity defense would be viable (as well as recommended by counsel) delusional defendants who are otherwise competent to stand trial should be permitted to go forward, and represent themselves, with the defense of their choosing.

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Delusions*
  • Humans
  • Insanity Defense*
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Supreme Court Decisions
  • United States