The Insanity Plea: The Pros and Cons of its Existence
Professor Patricia Dzandu
May 18, 2011
The Insanity Plea Definition of Not Guilty for Reasons of Insanity (NGRI) Insanity is a legal concept, not a clinical concept. The insanity defense, also called Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) is a 13th century legal tradition where some peoples' minds are seen as defective or diseased and that they are not sure what they did and normal grounds for responsibility and punishment don't apply. The burden of proof for insanity almost always rests with the defense, so insanity is a subtype of "affirmative defense" where the defense must shoulder the burden of proof. Normally, an affirmative defense is named because it allows the defense to raise the defense, forcing the prosecution to rebut it. The insanity defense basically states that a crime was committed, although there was an inability to prevent it by way of consciousness and voluntary control was not in place. Brief History of the Insanity Plea Although the insanity defense is probably the most controversial of all criminal defense strategies, it is also one of the least used. On many occasions when it has been used the insanity defense has tended to provoke public debate. The insanity defense asserts that a criminal defendant should not be found guilty due to the defendant's insanity. The theory behind the defense of the insanity plea is that a person who is insane lacks the knowledge to perform a criminal act because the person does not know that the act is wrong or cannot control his or her actions even when the person understands that it is wrong. The insanity defense has existed since the twelfth century, but it was not considered an argument for the defendant. The idea that insanity could...
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