In Se7en, John Doe turns himself in, asks for a lawyer and then proposes a deal to lead Det. Mills and Det. Somerset to the last 2 bodies. However, if they refuse, he announces he will plead insanity in his trial.

Det. Somerset replies: "If he were to claim insanity, this conversation is admissible".

Why does the conversation that they are having with John's lawyer has any relevance in his trial ? why is it "admissible" ?

2 Answers 2


Somerset points out that if John were to use the insanity plea as a defense strategy, the prosecution could use the fact that he announced this beforehand to negotiate a deal as proof in court.

In particular, the prosecution could argue that an insane man would not have suggested such a deal and John's claim of insanity is simply a ruse of his defense lawyers to keep him out of prison. Unlike the hot-headed Mills, who immediately agrees to the deal when confronted with the prospect that John might escape his sentence, Somerset, at his usual judicious self, recognizes that John's threat is ultimately empty and will very likely not hold up in a court. Somerset only agrees after the lawyer appeals to his compassion for the victims. This clearly shows another difference between the two detectives: While Mills is motivated by seeing the bad guy punished, Somerset is driven by compassion for the victims.

Only in the conclusion of the movie, Mills is forced to painfully realize that whether or not the perpetrator is punished ultimately won't change anything for the victim.

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    I think this answer would improve with some backup, some legal information about the "insanity plea" and the "defense strategy". In case you want to use them, here are some links: insanity defense - Cornell U -- Insanity defense - Wikipedia -- police recording a conversation -- ACLU civil rights - police recording a conversation
    – OldPadawan
    Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 10:10
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    @OldPadawan You make a good point, and also I’ve seen a lot of “movie logic” that doesn’t match the real world but does fit in with expectations and tropes from other movies and TV shows. This is why I feel like requests for “evidence” on this Stack are not always as reasonable as on other Stacks. In other words, there’s a lot of artistic interpretation here. Commented Oct 9, 2023 at 13:08

What does detective Somerset mean when he is talking about John Doe's insanity plea?

What I gather is that Somerset means that there is no point considering the deal as is, pointing out that it is not a viable deal. Considering the legal knowledge limitations expected of the majority of the target audience, this statement is there to subtly imply there must be a condition in the case of insanity pleas that uniquely allows for otherwise inadmissible conversations to indeed be allowed in court.This conversation, when revealed to the court, would disprove John Doe's insanity plea. Whether real, this story is implying fact for the sake of the story's entertainment value. Argument about it would cause the audience to break their suspension of disbelief. So the intention is for the audience to go along with the fantasy. I don't know if this excerpt reveals a true condition of admissibility, I am an average target audience member and this is what it meant to me. Entertainment is not a go-to place to learn facts and discuss arguments about its content, therefore, I need no resources other than my imagination.

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