The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal Essay

When we think of insanity most people would refer to this word as a medical term but in reality it is a legal term - The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal Essay introduction. It is not a term used clinically to describe an individual’s state of mind unless he or she has committed a serious criminal offense. The claim of a defendant in a criminal prosecution is that he or she was insane when the crime was committed, and therefore should not be held accountable. As William H. Reid said in his article in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, “ The point is not what diagnosis the defendant has, but how it affected his or her ability to do certain things at the time of the allegedly criminal act. (Journal of Psychiatric Practice, May 2000, p. 169, Law and Psychiatry – The Insanity Defense: Bad or Mad or Both? , William H. Reid). Defendants use the insanity defense as a way to attack intent or mens rea and must then provide proof that the time they committed the crime, they were legally insane and could not appreciate the nature of their wrongful act. There are fifty one types of insanity defense because each state including the District of Colombia has its own statute that sets the standard for determining if a defendant is legally insane. In general though the standards fall into two categories.

The most significant difference among the different states is who has the burden of proving the presence or absence of legal insanity and which rule is used in determining if the rule is applicable (Journal of Psychiatric Practice, May 2000, p. 169, Law and Psychiatry – The Insanity Defense: Bad or Mad or Both? , William H. Reid). About half of the states use the M’Naghten rule and some use the Model Penal Code standard established by the American Law Institute. Kansas, Montana , Idaho and Utah are the only four states who have completely abolished the insanity defense, although Montana still allows a guilty but insane verdict.

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The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal3 Alabama, California, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota and Washington use the M’ Naghten Rule and the burden of proof is on the defendant. Alaska, Arizona, Georgia and Missouri use the modified version of the M’Naghten Rule and a guilty but mentally ill or insane verdict is allowed. These states use the Irresistible Impulse test. Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois and Indiana use a modified version of the Model Penal Code Rule and the burden of proof is on the defendant.

Florida and New Jersey also use the M’Naghten Rule but the burden of proof is on the state. District of Colombia, Hawaii, Kentucky, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming use the Model Penal Code Rule and the burden of proof is on the defendant. Massachusetts, Michigan, North Dakota, Tennessee and West Virginia also use the Model Penal Code Rule but the burden of proof is on the state. New Hampshire is the only state that uses the Durham Standard and the proof is on the defendant (USLegal, Criminal Law Home Defense of Insanity -The Insanity Defense Among the States, http://criminal. findlaw. om/criminal-procedure/the-insanity-defense-among-the-states. html). When referring to having the burden of proof, the burden of proof is on the state means the prosecution must prove that person’s guilt in court in order for there to be a conviction. If the burden of proof is on the defendant than he or she must provide enough evidence to support his or her claim. States that use the M’Naghten rule use a test commonly referred to as the “right/wrong” test. The defendants is then found guilty by reason of insanity. The modified version of the M’Naghten rule includes the use of the irresistible impulse test.

This test determines if the person’s impulsiveness prevented them from stopping themselves from committing an act that he or she knew was wrong. Under the American Law Institute’s Model The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal4 Penal Code rule a defendant is not held criminally responsible if at the time of their conduct due to their mental disease they lacked the capacity to understand the wrongfulness of their actions (Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry Law 38:4:620-622, December 2010). Before the M’Naghten case there was the “complete madness” defense created in 13th century England.

That later changed into the “wild best” test by the 18th century. This test proved that the person was completely “deprived of his or her understanding and memory so as not to know what he was doing, no more than an infant, a brute or a wild beast. ” (Erich Feigl, 1995, 161). But the first famous and successful case was that of Daniel M’Naghten who attempted to kill the Prime Minister of England but instead shot his secretary who then died. He was indicated for having shot Edward Drummond (American Journal of Psychiatry, 140:6, p681, June 1983).

With the M’Naghten rule standard the defense must prove that the defendant was so delusional he or she did not know right from wrong. (Think Criminology, Fuller John, Chapter 5, p 113) Following the M’Naghten case the M’Naghten standards were handed down to the United States under the English common law system which was the basis for most of the early laws in the United States (Rivier Colllege Online Academic Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2005). This standard was used in about two-thirds of states until the mid 20th century.

The Durham rule was created in an attempt to displace the M’Naghten rule (Think Criminology, John Fuller,Chapter 5, p113). It was adopted in New Hampshire in 1871 in the 1954 case of Durham v United States. This rule provides that the defendant is not “criminally responsible if his unlawful act is the product of a mental disease or defect (State v Jones), The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal5 (Durham v United States). New Hampshire remains the only state that uses the Durham rule standard. The Durham test is very vague and difficult to sustain in court.

It is difficult to prove that a mental disease or defect caused a person to behave in such a criminal manner (Rivier Colllege Online Academic Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2005). The Model Penal Code standard was developed by the American Law Institute, which is a panel of legal experts, in 1962 as a way to update modern criminal provisions to be adopted by state and federal jurisdictions. This standard incorporated both the M’Naghten rule thought and the irresistible impulse tests (Rivier Colllege Online Academic Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2005).

The Model Penal Code standard states “a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. ” (ALI Model Penal Code 4. 01 (1) ). The one problem with this standard is determining what “lack of substantial mental capacity” should mean leaving many states no choice but to go back to using the M’Naghten standard.

National surveys indicate that the insanity defense is used in less than one percent of criminal cases and is successful in only 25 percent of those. Cases where the insanity defense is raise a lot of media attention but in reality this defense is not very common. It is a difficult defense to win. Most of the cases that have successfully won with this defense is because the defendant has agreed to a not guilty by reason of insanity (NGRI) plea. The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal6 Most people protest this defense because they feel it is a way for “criminals” to avoid paying the full price for their wrong doing.

The National Institute of Mental Health conducted an eight state study in 1991 that determined ninety percent of insanity defendants had been diagnosed with a mental illness. About half of those cases had been indicted for violent crimes, fifteen percent of those were murder cases ( Bulletin of the American Academy pf Psychiatry, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1991). Most defendants that are found guilty but insane are sentenced in most cases to prison. Nevertheless, these defendants have to receive mental health treatment before being put with the general prison population.

These verdicts provide that the defendants will not serve time in a correctional facility unless they have become sane and only if there is time left to serve on their sentence. After being evaluated, if the defendant is no longer insane then that person will be released (Rivier Colllege Online Academic Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2005). Per contra, if a person is found not guilty by reason of insanity they do not receive a prison sentence. These defendants must then serve their time in a mental facility for as long as the person demonstrates they are a danger to society and are still legally insane by reason of mental illness.

Today it is estimated that there are a quarter of a million people who are serving time in prisons and jails all over the country but are mentally ill under a medical definition. A large majority of these criminals attempted to raise the insanity defense but it failed. A verdict of guilty does not guarantee that offenders are going to receive the medical treatment they need for their mental problems while incarcerated (PBS. The Jailed). As a matter of fact, the Department of Justice has released two reports dealing with the issue of mentally ill inmates and it found that The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal7 6% of the people in the nation’s corrections systems were mentally ill, but only 60% of those reported receiving any mental health treatment (Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers,” July 1999; Bureau of Justice Statistics, Mental Health Treatment in State Prisons, 2000,” July 2001). There is so much crime today that the criminal justice system should reconsider their focus on trying to figure out whether incarcerating or rehabilitating criminals would work to curb crime.

They should just focus on providing effecting treatment to those who have committed crimes but are mentally insane (Rivier Colllege Online Academic Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2005). The Insanity Defense : Crazy or Criminal8

References

Journal of Psychiatric Practice, May 2000, p. 169, Law and Psychiatry – The Insanity Defense: Bad or Mad or Both? , William H. Reid USLegal, Criminal Law Home Defense of Insanity -The Insanity Defense Among the States, http://criminal. findlaw. com/criminal-procedure/the-insanity-defense-among-the-states. tml Journal of American Academy of Psychiatry Law 38:4:620-622, December 2010 Erich Feigl, 1995, 161 American Journal of Psychiatry, 140:6, p681, June 1983 Rivier Colllege Online Academic Journal, Volume 2, Number 1, Spring 2005 ALI Model Penal Code 4. 01 (1) Bulletin of the American Academy pf Psychiatry, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1991 PBS. The Jailed and Imprisoned Mentally Ill. Retrieved from http://www. pbs. org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/crime/jailed/ Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers,” July 1999; Bureau of Justice Statistics, Mental Health

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