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Insanity Defense Essay

1976 words - 8 pages

Insanity Defense
*Missing Works Cited*

"Insanity is defined as a mental disorder of such severity as to render its victim incapable of managing his affairs or conforming to social standards." (Insanity, pg. 1) It is used in court to state that the defendant was not aware of what he/she was doing at the time of the crime, due to mental illnesses. But insanity is a legal, not a medical, definition. There is a difference between mental illness and going insane. Many problems are raised by the existence of the insanity defense. For example, determining the patient's true mental illness (whether they are faking or not), placement of the mentally ill after trial, the credibility of the psychological experts, the percentage of cases that are actually successful, and the usefulness of such a defense. The insanity defense is also seen as a legal loophole and a waste of money. Due to this, the insanity defense as a whole should be abolished in order to prevent the freed criminal from performing the same crime that put him on trial in the first place.
As stated above, one of the main problems concerning the insanity defense is being able to detect whether or not the criminal is truly insane. Over the years the insanity test has evolved from a primitive version to a more detailed version. "…The insanity defense was based on the rule established in the M'Naghten case which had been handed down the by British House of Lords in 1843. The Lords ruled, "It must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong." And this became the insanity test for more than a century." (Mental Health Law and the US judicial system, pg 4) This rule is also known as the right/wrong test; it says that a person is basically insane if they are unable to distinguish between right and wrong as a result of some mental disability. This rule focuses on cognition, which alone is not enough to determine whether someone is mentally disabled. The M'Naghten rule remained the definition of the insanity defense up until 1954.
When the Durham case arose the insanity test was changed. Judge David Baezelon stated that, "an accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act was the product of mental disease or mental defect." (Mental Health Law and the US Judicial System, pg 4) This was the foundation for the new insanity test. Baezelon worked with psychologists and psychiatrists in developing the new test and in 1962 the "Durham Rule" was founded. It was said to be better than the M'Naghten rule in that it included both cognition and volitional impairment. The M'Naghten rule didn't include volitional impairment, which is an irresistible impulse while cognition impairment is not understanding the quality of the act. The...

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