Defense of the Insanity Defense

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Defense of the Insanity Defense:
John Hinckley Jr., Jeffery Dahmer, James Holmes, and Andrea Yates: all are perpetrators of violent crimes, and all claim insanity as the reason. In recent years, it seems that the verdicts of many major violent crimes have come down to whether the defendant is accountable for their actions or if they should be held Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI). This verdict more commonly known as the Insanity Defense is often seen as a way for criminals to ‘get out’ of punishment for their crimes. For a criminal to be declared NGRI, they have to undergo extensive psychiatric evaluation to determine that, at the time of their crimes, they were not of sound mind and unable to realize the wrongfulness of their actions. If a jury decides that they are not guilty—which occurs in around 25% of cases where the insanity plea is accepted—they will receive mental care and rehabilitation but remain imprisoned for the remainder of their lives. The controversy arises from many facets of this issue. One is whether the legal system should allow this defense, as many states have banned it. Another question is whether insanity can be proven in a manner that is acceptable in a trial. Another question is whether juries are educated enough about the nature of insanity and how it is proven to make an informed decision. There is little agreement between the psychological and legal communities and the public on the correct policy regarding the insanity defense. This defense is a necessary part of the legal system in order to protect those who are unaware of their actions. One thing, however, is clear: if this defense is to continue to be a legal option, state lawmakers need to modify it. The evaluation of defendants, administr...

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