The Insanity Plea Essay

1072 words - 5 pages

Literature Review

  The literature on the subject of the insanity defense spans ever since the controversy first became a topic to be discussed. The defense has been inscribed in the legal system for centuries; ever since the Greeks and the teachings of Plato. The current literature covers the spectrum from perception of both the offenders and the defense, to arguments both for and against abolition from our Twenty-First Century laws, as well as about the offenders and the victims.

Insanity Defense
  The defense of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI; now NCRMD or Not Criminally Responsible by Reason of Mental Disorder) has been around since the times of the Greeks, ever since Plato’s ...view middle of the document...

The offender must possess a rational ability to weigh the consequences of their act. Lastly, the offender must have the capacity to know right from wrong, and where it is relevant have the capacity for behavioural control (Kenneth et al, 2012, pg 223-224). Therefore, even though there is a criminal act (actus reas) that the defendant may be found guilty of beyond a reasonable doubt, there is no mens rea to actually assign the blame. (Kenneth et al, 2012).
  Research has found that among those that plead the insanity defense, 15-17% of those in the forensic practice, and as high up as 33% of those that have already been referred to mental health services are those that are malingering (feigning symptoms). Malingerers are most commonly defendents that already have a debilitating mental illness, but are exaggerating rather than faking the symptoms in order to escape criminal responsibility where it would have been assigned otherwise, and only a few of them feign a mental illness entirely (Gagliardi & Kramer, 2008).

Perception
  Research has found that perception of the insanity defense can be predicted through other factors, such as feelings towards the death penalty, authoritarianism, liberalism, fear of crime, philosophical standpoint (free will or determinstic), and religiosity. (Hans, 1986; Kivisto & Swan, 2011). Other demographic factors such as sex, age, race, income, and education are slightly less determining, but not irrelevant (Hans, 1986).
  When testing the predictability of jury assumptions, researchers found that jurors were likely to base their decision on the defendant’s manifesting symptoms within the courtroom during the time of the trial, even though the defense is built on the foundation of what occured during the criminal event in question, leaving the mental capacity during the trial to be irrelevant (Lecci & Peters, 2012). Despite being seemingly irrelevant, “perceived inability to control or conform behaviour rather than perceived cognitive impairement” is what ended up ifluencing the decision of the jurors the most (Lecci et al, 2012 pg 818).
   When participants were asked to give their assumptions regarding the outcome of the trial, just over half (54.6%) incorrectly assumed that if found...

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