Insanity and Legal Action Essay

Insanity and Legal Action Essay

Length: 1598 words (4.6 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

Insanity and Legal Action

Schopenhauer’s theory of madness as a defect of memory, while unquestionably dated, nonetheless retains significant intuitive appeal and is at least reconcilable with modern understandings of mental function and insanity.1 If accepted as a working theory in conjunction with a more modern understanding of the operation of the brain, the theory leads to a conception of insanity as a failure of understanding of consequences. In turn, this conception may help explain precisely why the insane are not considered responsible for their actions, and may suggest that the insane cannot be said to have acted at all.

Modern cognitive theory suggests that memory is structured primarily around stories. Thus, rather than remembering a sequence of events, we impute to those events some causal structure that enables us to understand and therefore remember the events. Unfortunately, this usually results in significant distortion of the events in our memory as we fill in standard imagery in the place of actual occurrences.2 One conclusion that seems well supported by these observations is that our memory, as we usually think of it, is intimately bound up with our understanding of causation and consequences. Presumably, a defect of memory, which Schopenhauer claims is at the root of all insanity, could thus impair a natural sense of consequences. Conversely, a failure to understand consequences could easily result in just the kind of fragmented and unrecognizable memory that Schopenhauer discusses.

The more standard categorizations of insanity, especially as described by Macniven, can be reconciled with this view. Macniven specifically attributes to manic-depressive psychosis a tenden...


... middle of paper ...


...RESPONSIBILITY, supra note 1, at 75–85.

7 H.L.A. Hart, Ascription of Responsibility (1949), in FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY, supra note 1, at 143–148.

8 See, e.g., A.I. Melden, Action (1956), in FREEDOM AND RESPONSIBILITY, supra note 1, at 149–160. Melden proposes a conception of action that, like Hart’s, takes into account a broad set of circumstances surrounding any physical movement or act of will. Unlike Hart, Melden sees these circumstances not as a tool of judgment and ascription, but rather as inherently giving the action a particular meaning.

9 See Barbara Wootton, Crime, Responsibility, and Prevention, in CRIME AND THE CRIMINAL LAW (1963). In the criminal context, Lady Wootton’s suggestions for combining the functions of mental institution and prison might promote greater mental health of prisoners with mental problems irrelevant to their crimes.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay on Insanity Defense: Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI)

- “Not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) has often perplexed even the most stringent of legal and psychiatric professionals for centuries. Moreover, it has transcended into the pop culture, as a “loophole”for the criminal society. However, the insanity defense is only used in less than 1% of criminal cases, and used successfully in only 10-25% of those cases (Torry and Billick, 2010). In order to successfully be acquitted by reason of insanity, the legal team, paired with psychiatric professionals, must prove that the defendant is not legally responsible for the crime, despite the evidence that they executed the crime....   [tags: insanity, crime, defendant]

Powerful Essays
2413 words (6.9 pages)

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

- 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 th...   [tags: richard bonnie, criminal law, insanity defense]

Powerful Essays
1379 words (3.9 pages)

Criminology: Sane for Insanity? Essay

- Sane for insanity. Often times, the Insanity Defense is viewed by the public as an excused for criminals who are trying to be free of a sentence in jail.That may be the case for a small portion of the time, but that rarely works. It does not matter what the defendants mental ability is at the moment of a trial. The jurors focus on the mental capability at the moment the defendant committed the crime. There are several tests that are looked at in trying to find what the cause was for all of the commotion by the defendant in the committed crime to discover the level of their mental illness, or if there is an illness at all....   [tags: insanity defense, excuse for criminals]

Powerful Essays
1223 words (3.5 pages)

The Legal System Worldwide and The Insanity Defense Essay

- ... Overall they proved that the public overestimates the use of the insanity defense in murder cases. They also overestimate the proportion of those who are getting acquittals and those who get free back to the community. On the contrary, the public underestimates the hospitalization and the time these people get convicted. This study concludes that social media usually present the advantages that the defendants of the insanity plea might get and cases of mentally ill people who committed a violent crime....   [tags: mental disease, overuse, criminals]

Powerful Essays
2520 words (7.2 pages)

Automatism, Insanity and Diminished Responsibility Essay example

- A defence in criminal law arises when conditions exist to negate specific elements of the crime: the actus reus when actions are involuntary, the mens rea when the defendant is unaware of the significance of their conduct, or both. These defences will mitigate or eliminate liability from a criminal offence. Insanity, automatism and diminished responsibility are examples of said defences. They each share characteristics but can be distinguished in their scope and application. Insanity, automatism and diminished responsibility all play a significant role in cases where the defendant’s mind is abnormal while committing a crime....   [tags: Diminished Responsibility Essays]

Powerful Essays
1568 words (4.5 pages)

Insanity/Automatism Defense in Court Essay

- A defence in criminal law arises when conditions exist to negate specific elements of the crime: the actus reus when actions are involuntary, the mens rea when the defendant is unaware of the significance of their conduct, or both. These defences will mitigate or eliminate liability from a criminal offence. Insanity, automatism and diminished responsibility are examples of said defences. They each share characteristics but can be distinguished in their scope and application. Insanity, automatism and diminished responsibility all play a significant role in cases where the defendant’s mind is abnormal while committing a crime....   [tags: Crime, Criminal Law]

Powerful Essays
1062 words (3 pages)

Essay on Is The Current Law Defense of Insanity Ineffective?

- INTRODUCTION In this project, I will consider whether the current law defence of insanity is ineffective, out-dated and in need of reform. I will do so by considering few criticisms of the insanity defence under the M’Naghten rules by academics like Peter Blood and others, as well as by reviewing possible law reform in the Insanity and automatism Scoping paper. My main aim is to uncover particular parts of the law which urgently need a reform such as sleepwalking, diabetes and the distinction between external and internal factors, by comparism of the contrasting leading cases....   [tags: balance of probability, reasonable doubt]

Powerful Essays
1779 words (5.1 pages)

The Insanity Defense Essay

- The Insanity Defense Former U.S president Ronald Reagan was shot by a man named John Hinckley in the year 1981. The president along with many of his entourage survived the shooting despite the heavy infliction of internal and external injuries. The Hinckley case is a classic example of the 'not guilty by reason of insanity' case (NGRI). The criminal justice system under which all men and women are tried holds a concept called mens rea, a Latin phrase that means "state of mind". According to this concept, Hinckley committed his crime oblivious of the wrongfulness of his action....   [tags: Argumentative Persuasive Essays]

Powerful Essays
1267 words (3.6 pages)

Comparing and Contrasting the Differences of Insanity, Automatism and Diminished Responsibility

- There are two theories that justify punishment: retributivism according to which punishment ensures that justice is done, and utilitarianism which justifies punishment because it prevents further harm being done. The essence of defences is that those who do not freely choose to commit an offence should not be punished, especially in those cases where the defendant's actions are involuntary. All three of these defences concern mental abnormalities. Diminished responsibility is a partial statutory defence and a partial excuse....   [tags: Criminal Justice]

Powerful Essays
1543 words (4.4 pages)

Morally Insane: Understanding Psychopathy as a Form of Insanity Essay

- 1 Introduction Neuroscience is revealing more and more about the neural underpinnings of our perception of the world and our behaviour in it. As the explanatory endeavour touches upon concepts such as 'person', 'responsibility' and 'free will', friction arises between the established ways of describing and judging persons and actions, and what neuroscience purports to tell us about the real nature of these things. The heat is up, and the rising conflict is perhaps best felt in the courtroom, where the institutionalised common morality is being confronted with new ways of seeing old problems....   [tags: Criminology ]

Powerful Essays
1349 words (3.9 pages)