Criminal defenses and pleas in mitigation based on amnesia

Document Type


Publication Date

January 1986


Criminal defendants often claim to suffer from amnesia in connection with the events that are the basis of the criminal charges made against them. These claims present difficult problems of proof. Moreover, there are various defenses and opportunities to make pleas in mitigation which present a number of contexts in which evidence of amnesia can be introduced into the criminal trial. This article will examine the significance of amnesia in relation to: (1) a defense based on lack of mens rea; (2) a defense based on diminished capacity; (3) the insanity defense; (4) lack of fitness to stand trial; and (5) sentencing and the death penalty.