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Essay on Should Insanity Be Considered a Legal Defense for Criminals?

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Richard Bonnie, a Professor of law and psychiatry, leans on yes -- insanity should indeed exist as a legal defense for criminals. However, his stance on the matter focuses more on a modified variation of the existing defense used in the courts, as the defense maneuver is crucial in maintaining moral integrity of criminal law (Bonnie, 1982, p. 308). He begins with a suggestion to consider the case of John Hinckley. While hearing his argument for the insanity defense, it is mentioned how the media takes on many cases, such as Hinckley's own case, and coupled with a lack of disagreement among experts in the psychiatric field, the media has had a negative influence on the overall depiction of the defense's credibility. The idea of punishing criminals is focused upon the foundation that all humans are in full command of their faculties and should therefore be appropriately dealt with because of their own choice to engage in criminal behavior. The Hinckley case managed to open eyes to the most basic moral reasons behind the insanity defense in criminal law (Bonnie, 1982, p. 308). Bonnie asserts that while he is in strong opposition to the abolishment of the insanity defense, he does account for the fact that there can be certain cases in which this defense could be taken advantage of. It becomes necessary for the sake of preventing serious moral incidents from occurring, that the burden of presenting evidence attesting to the defendant's legal insanity at the time of criminal behavior should be left to the defendant themselves (Bonnie, 1982, p. 309). Following the morality issues regarding the application of the defense, there is also the matter of its necessity. If the defense was no longer in effect, the law would have no way of ackno...


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...d to a psychiatric facility, the individual must prove themselves to no longer be a threat to themselves nor to society, and once this is proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, only then can it be considered that the individual is "sane" and ready to return to society.



Works Cited

(*1) - http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-insanity-verdict-on-trial/
The Insanity Verdict on Trial
The insanity defense, rarely used, is widely misunderstood
Dec 23, 2010 |By Scott O. Lilienfeld and Hal Arkowitz

(*2) - http://www.szasz.com/insanity.pdf
"Should The Insanity Defense Be Abolished?"
DebatesDebates #110
Taped: August 26, 1996
(*3) - http://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=4551&context=jclc
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology
Volume 47 | Issue 6 Article 4
1957
Should the Criminally Insane be Housed in Prisons
F. Legrande Magleby



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