The frightening past of Jack Lee Colin, who has been linked to two unsolved homicides and a missing-person case, has refocused attention on the fate of the criminally insane, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Colin, 51, was found not guilty by reason of insanity for killing his Pittsburgh-area parents when he was 19, and spent five years at two state hospitals. In 1977, he was released from a state hospital.
Gerald Cooke, the hospital’s chief forensic psychologist from 1973 to 1980, could not discuss Colin’s case, but he said that before a patient could be released, the hospital had to be convinced that the patient showed “no evidence of mental illness or potential danger.” Jon’a Meyer, an associate professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University-Camden, said public pressure has resulted in an increase nationwide of states’ adopting “guilty but mentally ill” verdicts. She said a common misperception is that many defendants get away with murder by employing an insanity defense. Fewer than 1 percent of insanity defenses work, she said. “It’s not an escape route; the people who prevail usually have serious problems.”