Following the uproar, the United States revised and limited the insanity plea with the hopes that fewer people would use it or actually receive the verdict (Hans). While on trial for any type of crime, the defendant always has the opportunity to plea not guilty by reason of insanity. However, after entering that plea, he or she has to go through extensive testing to determine whether or not insanity is truly present. Throughout this country, varying views concerning the insanity plea exist. Some believe the insanity plea should be restored to what it had been previously while some believe it works just fine now, and others think it should be abolished all together.
According to this concept, Hinckley committed his crime oblivious of the wrongfulness of his action. A mentally challenged person, including one with mental retardation, who cannot distinguish between right and wrong is protected and exempted by the court of law from being unfairly punished for his/her crime. (1) What is "insanity" and why is this subject of much controversy? Although I do not have a clear definition of insanity, most socially recognized authorities such as psychiatrists, medical doctors, and lawyers agree that it is a brain disease. However, in assuming it is a brain disease, should we link insanity with other brain diseases like strokes and Parkinsonism?
This is a quite strict definition without much room for special cases. It caused a “black and white” view of criminal insanity cases. The M'Naghten Rule lasted until the 1950s when in the Durham v. United States case the court ruled that "would not have committed the criminal act but for the existence of a mental disease or defect. "(Montaldo, 2010) the Durham method got a lot of criticism because it was very lenient on the definition of criminal insanity so that it almost depended on the judge to decide if the person was to be considered criminally insane or not. To address this problem a third method was created by the American Law Institute and was published as part of the Model Penal Code.
In states Montana, Idaho, and Utah, does not consent for the defendant to plea an insanity defense. The defendants must be capable to stand trial, but they do have the right to present evidence of a mental disease as evidence that they did not have the required intent ("A Crime Of Insanity - Insanity On Trial | FRONTLINE | PBS", n.d.). The state of Georgia uses a reformed style of the M'Naghten Rule ("The Insanity Defense Among the States - FindLaw", n.d.). Daniel M’Naghten was an Eng... ... middle of paper ... ...2011). Wrightsman's psychology and the legal system.
Many believe that the Insanity Plea is a simple way to get a high-stakes criminal off the hook, though many would also disagree and say that the Insanity Plea is a justifiable resolution to court cases. To define the actual term, “Insanity Plea”, the authors Zachary Torry and Stephen Billick state that, “The Insanity Defense of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity is the defense used by some mentally disordered defendants who do not have the capacity for understanding right and wrong at the time of their criminal act.” (Torry and Billick)In another article, Neuroscience, Ethics and Legal Responsibility: The Problem of the Insanity Defense, the author Stephen Smith, gives another excellent definition, he says, The insanity defense presents many difficult questions for the legal system. It attracts attention beyond its practical significance (it is seldom used successfully) because it goes to the heart of the concept of legal responsibility. ‘‘Not guilty by reason of insanity’’ generally requires that as a result of mental illness the defendant was unable to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the crime. The many difficult and complex questions presented by the insanity defense have led some in the legal community to hope that neuroscience might help resolve some of these problems, but that hope is not likely to be realized.
Because research has identified many different mental illnesses of varying severities, it is now too simplistic to describe a severely mentally ill person merely as insane. The federal law states that insanity is a fair defense if " at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendants as a result of sever mental disease or defect was unable to appreciate the nature and quality of the wrongfulness of his acts"(Knowles). The American Psychiatric Association recommends that · Insanity acquittals should be reserved for defendants diagnose as "psychotic", rather than those with a less serious "antisocial personality disorder"(The APA defined a psychotic as someone so out of touch with reality he was "unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.") · Defendants with antisocial personality disorders should be held "accountable for their behavior. "(Such as a person, according to the APA, understood his actions but might be unconcerned about their consequences.)
The insanity defense would require both a mental disease and a relationship between the illness and the criminal behavior, neither of which could be scientifically proven. Of the criminals both acquitted and convicted using the insanity defense, a good number have shown conclusive evidence of recidivism. Many dangerous persons are allowed to return to the streets and many non-dangerous persons are forced into facilities due to an insanity plea adding further confusion and injustice within both the legal and medical systems. The insanity defense is impossible to maintain on the foundation of rules such as the M'Naghten Rule, and the relationship between law and psychiatry must be reinstated on a more scientific level, based on the neurological work now going on in the brain sciences.
When Renfield began to address himself to the question he was confronted with, he did so with the utmost impartiality of the completest sanity. This leads the astute reader to wonder if renfield was, in fact, completely sane but driven to madness while being locked within the confines of an asylum. Even the sanest person may have insane tendencies when over tasked. This simply represents the imperfectness of humans. How do you know if you are truly sane when you do not know the attributes of the mad man from his point of view?
Throughout the years, the insanity plea has saved many lives and kept them out of prisons. But, in the long run, is it saving or hurting more people? Although a defendant is incompetent to stand trial due to their crazed state of mind at the time in which the crime was committed, the insanity plea should not be extended to cover those who suffer severe mental disorders, but instead, these psychopaths should be put in prisons where they will be supervised and not cause harm to anyone. The insanity plea was first recorded in the year 1581 in England. The court stated that if a “madman or a natural fool, or lunatic in the time of his lunacy’ kills someone, they cannot be held accountable.” (Insanity Defense).
The narrator continues to insist that he is not mad by explaining how cunningly he proceeds in his quest to kill the old man. He presents, “You fancy me mad. Madmen know nothing. But you should have seen me. You should have seen how wisely I proceeded” (Poe 619), as the argument for his sanity.