Defense Of The Insanity Defense Essay

2558 words - 10 pages

Defense of the Insanity Defense:
John Hinckley Jr., Jeffery Dahmer, James Holmes, and Andrea Yates: all are perpetrators of violent crimes, and all claim insanity as the reason. In recent years, it seems that the verdicts of many major violent crimes have come down to whether the defendant is accountable for their actions or if they should be held Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI). This verdict more commonly known as the Insanity Defense is often seen as a way for criminals to ‘get out’ of punishment for their crimes. For a criminal to be declared NGRI, they have to undergo extensive psychiatric evaluation to determine that, at the time of their crimes, they were not of sound mind and unable to realize the wrongfulness of their actions. If a jury decides that they are not guilty—which occurs in around 25% of cases where the insanity plea is accepted—they will receive mental care and rehabilitation but remain imprisoned for the remainder of their lives. The controversy arises from many facets of this issue. One is whether the legal system should allow this defense, as many states have banned it. Another question is whether insanity can be proven in a manner that is acceptable in a trial. Another question is whether juries are educated enough about the nature of insanity and how it is proven to make an informed decision. There is little agreement between the psychological and legal communities and the public on the correct policy regarding the insanity defense. This defense is a necessary part of the legal system in order to protect those who are unaware of their actions. One thing, however, is clear: if this defense is to continue to be a legal option, state lawmakers need to modify it. The evaluation of defendants, administration of punishment, and publicity of cases that deal with the insanity defense all can be modified in order to maintain its use in the legal system.
The Insanity Defense is a long-standing part of the legal system, with the first cases documented in the 1800s (Daftary-Kapur T, 2011). Since its origins, the intent was to help the members of society who were psychologically unable to defend themselves. As incidences where this defense was publicly used became more common, controversy began to arise. In 1982 when John Hinckley Jr. attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan but was not convicted guilty because of the insanity defense, the United States became more aware of the problems surrounding this issue. People began to debate whether the defense should be allowed to exist because of the negative implications of ‘releasing’ murders. At the end of the 20th century, the cannibalistic serial killer Jeffery Dahmer was arrested for the murder of 19 men. Though the judge accepted his plea of insanity, he was found guilty and his insanity defense was rejected. People thought that this was likely the end of cases involving the insanity defense, because the fact that such a deranged individual was acquitted for his crimes...

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