The Validity of Mental Illness in Regard to Kahler

By: Myah Brown

Kahler vs Kansas, a well known case being argued in the 2019 October Term for the Supreme Court brings up the topics of mental health, the insanity plea and its validity.  In lower courts, Kahler was found guilty of murdering his two daughters, wife and her mother and was sentenced to death for his crimes. Kahler did say he was guilty in the courtroom, however, he also plead insanity. The fact that this case is being argued at the highest level could have massive repercussions for other states who still hold the insanity plea to be a valid defense. Many articles have been published speaking to this very topic. 

A piece published in The Constitution Daily by Robert Black ( discussed the intent of Kahler’s legal team and if they thought the law they were fighting against was truly unjust. Should insanity be a valid defense? Black was not exactly sure, but mental illness is definitely a reasonable explanation for why some people commit the crimes they do. If we were to allow state’s to hold laws such as Kansas’s, we would be belittling the monumental effects that mental illnesses wreak on people’s mental wellness.

Another piece that was published by The Atlantic by Garret Epps ( is one of the few articles that actually delves into the mental illnesses Kahler has. Epps states that Kahler had been diagnosed with mixed obsessive compulsive disorder, narcissistic and histrionic personality. Epps said he had lived a normal life until depression took over and he went into a compulsive and uncontrollable state which caused him to kill his family. His defense is actively working to prove his innocence through insanity and by bringing this question if states can abolish the insanity defense all the way up to the supreme court. 

The question of whether this is legal is in regard to the 8th and 14th amendments, does allowing this violate these laws? The Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy ( looks deeper into these clauses and how they could be in violation. Paul Larking and GianCarlo Canaparo state in the article that the Due Process Clause prohibits the punishing of a person until they have been properly proven guilty of a crime. Kahler’s defense is that he can not be proven guilty, and rather should be proven insane. If the Supreme Court finds this argument to be reasonable then Kahler can be tried again at a later date to try to avoid sitting on Death Row.

The Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause is also being argued, however, many feel as though this Clause is irrelevant to the case at hand. Many are fearful of the outcome of this case. Some fear a murderer walking free while others fear the repercussions and possible precedents that could be set regarding mental illness if this case is dismissed.

Myah: I think this is excellent. I like how you don't just gloss sources, but provide an introduction, and also connect the sources you discuss to each other in terms of what they do and don't cover, and the different frameworks and points of concern through which they approach the case. 

My major suggestion is paragraphs: web text is much easier to read with short, concise paragraphs; you might consider having at least each of your sources in a new paragraph block--and perhaps even breaking it up more than that. It's ok to have very short paragraphs in a blog post if they help to break up your ideas.

I'd also, instead of providing the full text of the links to your sources, just turn the title of the source into hypertext: highlight the text and click on the link icon to add a link.

A few other notes: case names should be italicized. It's best to first reference pieces with their author's full name and title, and to use the author's surname afterwards ("Smith also notes..."). And the title: the post isn't really just about the issue of federalism. You might consider a more informative title.

Well done.

Leave a Reply