I’d like to briefly discuss the effect of this case on the insanity defense, through the lens of academic and popular commentary. Many academic sources have analyzed whether Kansas and four other states can essentially abolish the “insanity defense” and whether this violates the eighth amendment. Many amicus curiae briefs have stated that currently Kansas, along with the four other states, have abolished the defense. However, Kansas does still allow for someone to show their insanity, but only during the sentencing portion of a trial in order to get a lesser sentence, not in order to plead one’s innocence. Kansas’ version of “the insanity defense” is known as “The Wild Beast Test”, which was never used in the U.S. before that and only briefly in England.
Kahler’s lawyer has stated that the lack of a true insanity defense goes against the fourteenth and eighth amendment. It goes against due process as the fourteenth amendment, and cruel and unusual punishment in the fourteenth amendment. This is due to the fact that an insanity defense has been established as a needed defense since the 1500’s, and had been a part of Kansas’ law for over 100 years. This establishes a right and privilege that the people of Kansas were accustomed to, which directly goes against the fourteenth amendment.
Some arguments on the other side say that making Kansas have an insanity defense would go against federalism. These arguments state that it is a state’s right to decide punishments for crimes that occur in their states and the defenses that can be used in these trials. However, when something directly goes against the constitution, that’s when it becomes a matter left up to the Supreme Court of the United States and is left in the hands of the federal government.