The Insanity Defense

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The first claim of the insanity defense recorded can be found in Hammurabi’s code which dates back to around 1772 BC. The Code of Hammurabi is a Babylonian law code of ancient Iraq, formerly Mesopotamia. Back when the Roman Empire ruled the government found convicted people to be non-compos mentis. This means without mastery of mind and not guilty for their criminal actions. There have been many different types of test over the years to determine if the defendant is actually insane. The first test was the “good and evil” test. It came from religious and biblical concepts. People who couldn’t distinguish between good and evil were considered to be insane. If they could not do so they were found guilty of the crime. The next test was the “wild beast test.” In the 1724 British case of “Rex vs. Arnold,” the judge ruled for the defendant to be acquitted by reason of insanity because he did not know what he was doing, he acted like a “wild beast” would act. (Garofolo)
The insanity defense was also used in the assassination attempt on British Prime Minister Robert Peel in 1842. A man by the name of Daniel M'Naghten intentionally killed an assistant to a prime minister of England. He believed he was being persecuted. When it was time for his trial he plead insanity. The prosecution tried to show that the defendant was sane by bringing up M'Naghten's behavior in planning and executing the attack. Many physicians testified about the defendant even though they never examined the defendant. They only had conclusions based on simple hearsay of the testimony and observing the defendant's behavior. The prosecution then agreed to stop the case. The defendant was declared insane. Then Queen Victoria and the House of Lords got light of this case ...

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...nse altogether. The insanity defense is used in only about 1% of cases in the U.S. and is successful less than 25% of the time. Today many people say they are insane to get out of their punishment of the crime they committed. But this rarely works. Many people abuse the insanity plea thinking that it will give them a sweeter sentencing. Many people in the public once defendant says they are insane after committing for example a murder the public gets very angry. The reason they do this is because in the public’s eyes murder is murder. The only time the public would probably sympathize with a defendant is when they are unable to stand trial because of their psychological issues. The public usually doesn’t agree with the insanity defense and it usually makes them outraged or feels like the right justice has been served to the defendant. (Collins, Hinkebein, & Schorgl)
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