Insanity Defense

Topics: Insanity defense, Mental disorder, Insanity Pages: 5 (1716 words) Published: April 17, 2011
For years, the insanity defense has developed and turned into a difficult but sometime successful defense system in a court of law. The exact law changes from state to state however the main idea remains the same. The insanity defense could apply or be used on a person who is considered legally insane. They must have a severe mental disease or defect and must prove they were at the time of the crime, legally insane. Also said person has to prove they didn’t know the impact, quality or the nature of their act or acts (The Insanity).

The insanity defense has been a controversial subject for years and years. One of the main reasons for this controversy is the inability for lawmakers to decide on a solid legal definition of insane. There are countless standards of insane; each court has used different interpretations of the term insane. One of the first serious attempts to define insane legally was in 1843. This occurred due to the M'Naghten case. Daniel M'Naghten was charged with the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Peel. As a paranoid schizophrenic, M'Naghten was found not guilty and had set a rule for the insanity defense. This rule declared it was not right to hold a person legally accountable for unlawful actions committed while afflicted with a mental disorder(The M’Naghten). This disorder must prevent the person from understanding what he or she is doing and must also prevent them from comprehending that their conduct is wrong. Over time this idea was seen as too lenient and not structured enough. About 40 years later, in Alabama Supreme Court, the “irresistible impulse test” was formed. This law said those who wished to plead not guilty by reason of insanity had to demonstrate that they could not control their actions and behaviors when their crimes were committed (A Brief History). On some occasions the defendant does not have to match all of the descriptions of insane to plea insanity. For instance, John Hinckley was the man who tried to assassinate President Regan on March 30, 1981. His defense attorneys did not argue that he had premeditated the attack then committed it. His attorneys instead argued that he was acting according to the impulses of a diseased or impaired mind as he was schizophrenic (Hinckley). Over all the definition for legally insane is vague making the law for the insanity defense vaguer. In the United sates the insanity defense is incredibly rare, and rather unsuccessful. One percent out of all court cases in the Unites States, plead insanity out of that one percent only twenty six percent is successful (Chiacchia).

In a capital trial there is two phases, the first is to determine whether or not the defendant is guilty or not guilty. The second part is to decide on the sentence. Those who argue that the insanity defense should be allowed feel as though there is relevance in mental illness and the questions that are asked in a capital trial, which is the type of trial used in the United States. The first problem that a mentally ill or mentally insane defendant might encounter is the police interrogation. People who have a mental defect or disease are more likely to give false confessions under the extreme amount of police pressure. Other accused that are not mentally retarded but considered mentally ill have a tremendously hard time understanding their Miranda rights, therefore they may dismiss rights they have and falsely incriminate themselves. Secondly, according to the United States Constitution a defendant must be competent so they can rationalize and have a factual understanding of the proceedings. If it is found that the defendant is not competent they are put into a mental institution until they are deemed competent enough to withstand trial. More times than not juries reject insanity defenses in capital cases despite strong evidence that the defendants were suffering from serious mental illnesses at the time of the crime. In some of these cases the defendant is...

Bibliography: American Civil Liberties Union. "Mentally Ill Offenders Should Not Be Executed." Crime and Criminals. Ed. James D. Torr. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 2010. Opposing Viewpoints. Gale Opposing Viewpoints In Context. Web. 21 Nov. 2010.
Chiacchia, Kenneth B. "Insanity Defense - Insanity Defense Statistics, Problems with NGRI, Guilty but Mentally Ill Read More: Insanity Defense - Insanity Defense Statistics, Problems with NGRI, Guilty but Mentally Ill." Net Industries, 2010. Web. 1 Nov. 2010. .
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