The insanity Plea

Topics: Insanity defense, Mental disorder, Insanity Pages: 10 (3397 words) Published: May 26, 2014

Many people have heard about the insanity defense in different famous cases where it has come up and been used. The insanity defense is a compromise between society and the law, meaning that society believes that criminals shouldn't be punished if they are mentally incapable of controlling their conduct. There is a lot of controversy with the insanity defense, like questions such as what is the different if an insane person killed someone and if a sane person killed someone, the person is still dead. To which most have a point, it is still wrong but it all becomes an ethical game with killing someone who didn't understand or comprehend what they did was wrong. The court defines it as there was only a crime committed if the person committed an illegal act, the actus reus, and they intended to commit this illegal act, the mens rea. Some mentally ill people, do commit the illegal act but do not have the intention to commit the illegal act to start with. The reason the insanity plea is so controversial and a mystery to most, is because people have little knowledge about mental illness and look at it as if they cant see it, then they aren't insane, it isn't a real disease and it doesn't exist. Some don't understand how the insanity defense came about, the process people have to go through when claimed in their case, and in different cases of how it has developed and evolved over the years.

The first look at the insanity defense came about in 1313 with the english in which it came from biblical concepts of good verses evil. If the person knew the difference between good and evil at the time they committed the act, they were claimed to be guilty, but if they didn't know the difference, then they would be let off the hook for what they did. They used this method from the 14th century to the 16th century. When the 17th century came around, they replaced it with the wild beast test which claimed that if the person was deprived of their understanding, memory, and knew no more than a wild beast at the time the act was committed then they wouldn’t be guilty for the act. Then they went further to reform this and said if they had a disease of the mind and were unaware of the nature of the act they committed then they wouldn't be claimed as guilty. When the 18th century came around, some courts varied how they went about seeing if the criminal was really insane. Some of them would test if they knew the difference between good verses evil and some would test to see if they didn't know what they did was wrong at the time of the crime. The first real test they came up with in 1843 was based on the McNaughton case in which a man shot and killed a prime minister because he thought she was conspiring against him. They said it was by reason of insanity and sent him to a mental institution for the rest of his life. They then made the McNaughton rule which is a rule applied by the jury, saying that the person did not know what they were doing was wrong. This rule became standard in the United States and the United Kingdom. But then in 1953, the Durham rule came about from another case of a man who was in and out of prison and mental institutions since he was 17. In 1953, at the age of 23, he was accused of a housebreaking and then they chose to reform the McNaughton rule. Saying that the person was not criminally responsible if his act was the product of a mental disease. But then all the federal courts rejected this new reform saying it was too broad and general, that people would use it to get out of many crimes. Not much later though, in 1972, they came up with a solid idea for the insanity defense. The American Law Institute put into the Model Penal Code that the criminal is not responsible because of result of mental disease and if they didn't possess the substantial capacity to know the criminal conduct of their act or that it was unlawful. This was made to be vague so it leaves some factors up to the jury to decide on a case to case...

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