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The Case Of Valentine Shortis Essay

1473 words - 6 pages

Before the eighteenth century it was very common for a guilty person to try to escape harsh punishment under the plea of impulsive insanity after committing a crime. However, by the early eighteenth century it was more difficult to prove that an individual was insane after committing a vicious crime. The case of Francis Valentine Shortis was one of such cases. His lawyers had a very difficult case on their hands and the only option they felt could help their client was to use the insanity defence. Their attempt was to persuade the twelve men jury that at the time of this dreadful crime, Shortis was in fact not mentally responsible and therefore suffering from a disease of the mind. There was an extensive amounts of evidence provided from the crown about Shortis’ mental capacity that pointed toward him being a sane man, challenging the very movement of the defence case. The crown had a reasonable amount of evidence presented by Shortis' coworkers, former friends and neighbours to support their argument that Shortis was not insane and in fact, acted very intelligently.
There are no doubts that Shortis did commit some very bad things during his childhood in Ireland that would make an individual assume that he must be insane. On the contrary, some of his former neighbours found Shortis to be an ordinary boy who was playful and very mischievous growing up. According to Friedland (1986), the crown (Macmaster) stated that “he committed many eccentric, rash and even reckless acts in Ireland, but he never was arrested there or confined in a Lunatic Asylum” (p.27). One of the psychiatrists Dr. Buck during the trial testify that he did not agreed with the other psychiatrists about Shortis’ state of mind at the time of the killing. He told the crown that he attributes the killing only in a limited sense to impulse and that Shortis premeditated the killing (Friedland, 1986). There was never any hard evidence that indicated that his parents’ thought or had any doubt that their son was an imbecile or insane, nor did they think he did not know the difference between right and wrong. There were never ever any questions about Shortis' state of mind by his parents with believing so they sent him to live in another country to become more independent. They even had a letter of reference from one of the highest dignitary in the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland to verify that their son was capable of coming to Canada. If he was insane then the priest would not have given such a reference as it would be a misconduct of the priesthood.
There are “no doubt that Shortis was sane…he is just as sane as men ordinarily are and that the crimes committed by him were committed in cold blood and with the object of getting possession of a large sum of money” (Friedland, 1986, p.13). Shortis was aware if his actions and cognisant of the potential consequences. Most of the townspeople thought Shortis was eccentric based on how he dressed and behaved, but far from being...

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