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State v. Herrera

Supreme Court of Utah
895 P.2d 359 (1995)


In 1983, Utah eliminated the traditional insanity defense, replacing it with a new statute, § 76-2-305(1), which provided that it is a defense that, “the defendant, as a result of mental illness, lacked the mental state required as an element of the offense charged. Mental illness is not otherwise a defense.” Under the previous law, a defendant was permitted to argue in his defense that he committed an act but did not understand that it was wrong. In contrast, the amended law restricts the defense to the defendant not having the mens rea required by the crime. Herrera and Sweezy (defendants) pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to their crimes and filed motions requesting that the court declare the Utah statutory scheme dealing with the insanity defense unconstitutional. The defendants argued that the statute is unconstitutional on three grounds: (1) it violates federal due process, because it would allow them to be convicted even if they did not know the wrongfulness of their actions; (2) it violates state due process guarantees; and (3) it impermissibly shifts the burden of proving an element of the crime from the prosecution to the defendants.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Howe, J.)

Dissent (Durham, J.)

Dissent (Stewart, J.)

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