Crisis Intervention

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Benjamin Graddy
Criminal Law
Dr. Stephen Morris
April 25, 2011
Insanity Defense

* In law enforcement there are many defenses used to try and prove someone’s innocents in the courtroom. The insanity defense is one of those. It has been used to try and get many people off from the crime they have committed, however it is unlike most defenses. Insanity doesn’t result in an acquittal of an individual; rather the defense has to prove the person was insane when the crime was committed. This paper will begin to talk about why insanity is referred to as a legal term, why people decide to use it, and the different outlooks that the public has on the insanity defense. * Public opinion of the Insanity defense is strongly opposed but also has an inaccurate perception placed on it. The public tends to think that the insanity defense is just a loophole through which criminals can access and escape punishment for the crime they have committed, however this is not the case. The public has always over estimated the value and success rate of the insanity defense, and always think that if found not guilty you get to walk away. This is not the case; if you are found not guilty you are still confined whether it be in a mental institution, jail, or both. The insanity defense has been a legal doctrine for centuries but only the last couple of decades has it been researched exclusively. In a recent study conducted it was found that “88 percent of people thought felt that insanity plea is a loophole that allows too many guilty people to go free,” (Cirincione). One of the problems with the insanity defense is the media. The media can make the insanity defense look how ever it wants. They can paint the insanity defense in an evil light, as the have, or they can portray it as an actual defense for those that are legally insane and mental incompetent. No matter how you stand on the issue there have been many different people that have used the insanity defense for many years. * The first real case for the insanity defense could be traced back to Daniel M’Naghten in 1843. Daniel M’Naghten was a woodworker who thought he was in a conspiracy that involved Robert Peel and the Pope. M’Naghten thought that he was going to be killed by these men, so he took the liberty to try and kill the British Prime Minister Robert Peel first. M’Naghten went to shoot Robert Peel, but accidentally shot Peel’s secretary and killed them. A trial was given to M’Naghten and he was considered by a panel of psychiatrist to be delusional at the time, therefore not guilty by reason of insanity. The public was not in favor of this decision so after multiple protest, a legal standard was set forth for the use of the insanity defense, which has stood for over 150 years. A rule was set after the trail of Daniel M’Naghten that said defendants may only be acquitted of a crime when “the defect of reason from the disease of the mind has taken effect.” This means that the criminal at the time does not realize that what they were doing at the time was a crime or why it was a crime. * The insanity defense has many different questions and outlooks that are given to it. The insanity defense has common misconceptions, is it successful, is it the same law everywhere, and what is it exactly? The insanity defense normally refers to a plea that a defendant gives because they believe they lacked the mental capacity to realize that they committed a crime that was wrong. Although in some cases the individual realizes that what they were doing was wrong, however they lacked the self-control to stop them selves from doing it. These questions are normally asked to the individual to prove insanity. Was in fact the person so crazy they didn’t know what they were doing was wrong, which is called cognitive incapacity, or moral incapacity, which says they did not know right from wrong. These questions must be answered to ensure to have success with the insanity...
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