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History and Effectiveness of the Insanity Plea Essay

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In 1843, testifying that one is insane became a useful defense. When Daniel McNaughtan attempted to assassinate British Prime Minister Robert Peel, he failed. Instead, McNaughtan killed Peel's secretary but was found not guilty by reason of insanity at the trial. The United States criminal justice system quickly adopted this new law of not guilty by reason of insanity, established by the McNaughton Decision. Although he was found not guilty, McNaughtan spent twenty years in a mental asylum until his death. Although helpful to truly insane criminals, the insanity plea has many flaws when it comes to the victims. Pleading insanity should be outlawed because it is unfair to the victims’ families, dangerous to society, and ambiguous in its interpretation.
One flaw of the insanity plea is how the victims and their families are affected. For example on March 21, 2010, Kathy Powell, the mother of 21 year old Taylor Powell, who was brutally murdered by Jarrod Wyatt outside Klamath, Oregon, said the suspect's recent insanity plea was a complete lie. Mrs. Powell said she knows little about what happened that night, but voiced frustration about the defense's efforts to suggest her son somehow instigated the fight that led to his death. Wyatt, age 26, was being charged with murder, aggravated mayhem, and torture. He pleaded a dual plea of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity.
Along with the family’s devastation, they are also particularly worried about Taylor's brother, Andrew, who learned of the killing while on duty with the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne in Afghanistan. Kathy Powell said that until the day of the killing the family had always been more concerned for Andrew's safety in a war zone, and said that it was shocking th...


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...ddition of wounding a member of Congress and premeditation, his illogical state of mind has come into question. Diagnosed with a mental illness would have satisfied the insanity plea, yet Loughner’s premeditation defies McNaughtan’s law of insanity.
When the United States adopted and interpreted the insanity, it did not account for trail cases such Jarrod Loughner’s. Where the defendant is insane but had also premeditated the crime. In addition to its ambiguous interpretations, there is a clear danger to society after the criminals are released from their hospitalization. Although, the criminals had served their time, the families of the victims are still without out closure knowing that the person that harmed their loved one escaped their proper consequences. The insanity plea was useful when it was first put into effect, but now its flaws are clear and apparent.



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