Shannon v. United States, 512 U.S. 573 (1994)

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certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fifth circuit

No. 92-8346. Argued March 22, 1994—Decided June 24, 1994

In the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984 (IDRA or Act), Congress made insanity an affirmative defense, created a special verdict of "not guilty only by reason of insanity" (NGI), and established a comprehensive civil commitment procedure. At his trial on a federal criminal charge, petitioner Shannon raised the insanity defense and asked the District Court to instruct the jury that an NGI verdict would result in his involuntary commitment. The court refused, and the jury returned a guilty verdict. In affirming, the Court of Appeals noted that, under its pre-IDRA precedent, juries were not to be instructed concerning the consequences of an insanity acquittal. Because there was no directive in the IDRA to the contrary, the court "adhere[d] to the established axiom that it is inappropriate for a jury to consider or be informed about the consequences of its verdict."

Held: A federal district court is not required to instruct the jury regarding the consequences to the defendant of an NGI verdict. Pp. 579-588. (a) The principle that juries are not to consider the consequences of their verdicts is a reflection of the basic division of labor between the judge as sentencer and the jury as trier of fact. Providing jurors sentencing information invites them to ponder matters that are not within their province, distracts them from their responsibilities, and creates a strong possibility of confusion. Pp. 579-580. (b) The IDRA does not require courts to depart from the foregoing principle. The text of the Act gives no indication that jurors are to be instructed regarding the consequences of an NGI verdict. The Court rejects Shannon's contention that Congress, by modeling the IDRA on D. C. Code Ann. 24-301, impliedly adopted a D. C. Circuit decision that endorsed the practice of giving the instruction in question in the context of 24-301. Because Congress departed from the scheme embodied in 24-301 in several significant ways when it passed the IDRA, the canon of construction urged by Shannon—that adoption of the wording of a statute from another legislative jurisdiction carries with it the jurisdiction's judicial interpretations of that wording—is not applicable. The single passage in the legislative history endorsing the giving of the instruction in question is in no way anchored in the IDRA's text and is not entitled to authoritative weight. Pp. 580-584.


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