Insanity Defense

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Ron Phillips
Intro to Criminal Justice 1301
Insanity Defense

I believe there has to be an insanity defense in our Justice System. There are people that are truly insane and do not have any idea that what they are doing is wrong, for whatever reasons they are not able to tell the difference between what is right and wrong and are incapable of developing the mental capacity to do so. There are several forms of insanity tests that are accepted in the court system today. One of the original insanity defenses is defined by the M’Naghten Test; it is still currently being used by twenty five states. The M’Naghten Test states that a defendant should not be held responsible for his actions only if, due to his mental disease or defect, he did not know that his act would be wrong; or did not understand the nature and quality of his actions.

The Durham/New Hampshire Test is another form of insanity defense. This test states that a defendant is can be not found not guilty if his mental illness was the reason for the crime. This is also known as the Product Test. This test has much broader rules regarding the insanity defense; however, it did deal with the issue of possibly convicting mentally ill defendants. This could and did happen when using the M'Naghten Rule. The Durham standard did however draw a lot of criticism due to its expanded definition of legal insanity and the ease at which some defendants were able to use it.

The Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984, in effect, seriously changed the definition of insanity and how it could be used by a defendant and or their attorneys. Basically it took the ability to plea insanity back to the Victorian era’s idea of right and wrong, after the original M’Naghten case in the murder of Robert Peel. This act mirrors the M'Naghten rules except that it requires that the defendant must suffer from a severe mental defect, and, more importantly it places the burden on the defendant to prove by clear and convincing...
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