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Jones v United States - Indefinite Confinement of Insanity Acquitees

NCJ Number
New England Journal on Criminal and Civil Confinement Volume: 10 Issue: 2 Dated: (Summer 1984) Pages: 405-431
T G Brophy
Date Published
27 pages
This article addresses the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Jones v. the United States, and explores its impact on insanity acquittees.
Michael Jones was arrested on September 19, 1975, for attempting to steal a jacket in a Washington, D.C., department store. He was charged with attempted petit larceny, and pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. After 50 days of confinement, Jones was not able to persuade the court that he was no longer insane, and he remained confined. After a series of appeals, Jones petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari, asserting that commitment beyond the 1-year maximum sentence for petit larceny without further commitment hearings violated due process, and that his continued commitment without such rights granted civil confinees violated the equal protection component of the fifth amendment. The Court held that when an individual proves by preponderance of the evidence that he is not guilty by reason of insanity, the Government is permitted by the Constitution, on the basis of the insanity judgment, to confine him to a mental institution until he has regained his sanity and is no longer a danger to himself or society. Additionally, the Court labeled the insanity acquittee as a member of a 'special class that should be treated differently from other candidates for commitment.' Justice Brennan's dissent is examined, and the Court is shown to have placed society's considerations above the concerns for equal treatment of not-guilty-by-reason-of-insanity acquittees. Included are 152 case notes.


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