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House Co-Sponsorship Memoranda

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House of Representatives
Session of 2013 - 2014 Regular Session


Posted: December 19, 2012 01:51 PM
From: Representative Glen R. Grell
To: All House members
Subject: Insanity Defense -- Prior House Bill 1405

TO: All House Members

FROM: Representative Glen R. Grell

DATE: December 19, 2012

SUBJECT: Cosponsor Legislation – Prior HB 1405

In the near future, I plan to reintroduce House Bill 1405 to permit judges to admit the testimony of licensed psychologists in determining insanity. This bill passed the House unanimously on March 12, 2012, but failed to receive third and final passage in the Senate prior to the end of session.

Currently, state law specifies that only psychiatrists can testify at the initial determination of insanity. The Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards estimates that approximately 100 psychologists are proficient in forensic psychology and could offer expert opinions; in fact, some courts already allow them to testify. With this amendment, the law would clarify that courts have the discretion of accepting testimony from a wide range of qualified professionals. The proposed language of the amendment has been agreed upon by the professional associations representing both the psychologists and the psychiatrists.

My legislation does not alter the standards for an insanity defense in Pennsylvania. In fact, current state statute provides that defendants may summon other experts, such as a psychologist to testify on their behalf. Recognizing psychologists as evaluators of the insanity defense is consistent with the scope of the practice and the recognition of psychologists in a variety of other forensic areas.

Insanity determinations are rare and constitute less than 1 percent of all homicides. This legislation benefits our courts and judicial process by providing a wider range of qualified persons as expert witnesses.

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Introduced as HB21