Insanity Defense Reform

Jacqueline Hoyt

Professor Mary Lou Hall

Writing Assignment 3

2 May, 2011

Insanity Defense Reform

The insanity defense is a major debate in the criminal justice system.  In a survey of the public in 1986 it was found that, “Nine out of every ten respondents agree that the insanity defense is a loophole allowing too many guilty people to go free” (Hans).  Even though the insanity defense is a small statistic, big discussion have arisen from it.  In an article it is stated that, “the reality is that the insanity defense is used in only 1% of criminal cases, and it is used successfully in only 10-25% of those” (Torry, and Billick). The insanity defense is necessary for fair due process, however, it needs to be reformed in order to better suit the needs of society.  A standard definition for insanity and reevaluation of the role of psychologists in trial are needed in order for the insanity defense to be reformed in a way that is both acceptable to the society and beneficial to the defendant.

The first use of the insanity defense is not known, but it has been determined that it was during the time of Ancient Greece.  The modern concept of insanity did not enter criminal law until the M’Naghten case in 1843.  Daniel M’Naghten was a man that tried to assassinate the Prime Minister of England because he thought that the government was conspiring against him.  M’Naghten ended up killing the Prime Minister’s assistant, mistaking him for the Prime Minister.  M’Naghten was acquitted because he was considered insane and paranoid at the time of the murder.  The case led to rules of how to define insanity during a trial.  The M’Naghten rules are a list of sets of defects of the mind that affected the accused person’s brain during a crime (Allnutt, Samuels, and O’Driscoll).  The rules created the first “not guilty by reason of insanity verdict”.  Since the M’Naghten rules were created, they have quickly become the standard test for if a defendant is insane.  The rules stated, “To establish a defense on the grounds of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of committing the act, the accused was operating under such a defect of reason, from a disease of the mind, as to not know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong” (Allnutt, Samuels, and O’Driscoll).

Reform for the insanity defense became popular among the public after the trial of John Hinckley in 1981.  Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.  When he was acquitted on the basis of not guilty by reason of insanity, the public began to call for reform.  People did not understand how a person who attempted to murder the president could not have gone to jail.  The public’s opinion after the Hinckley trial has been widely researched.  Most of the public did not agree with the verdict: “an ABC News poll conducted the day following the verdict revealed that three-quarters of the Americans surveyed felt ‘justice had not been done’ in the Hinckley case” (Hans, and Slater).  Many felt that he should be both punished for his crime and treated for his mental illness.  Furthermore, most of the public believed that judges and juries have a hard time determining if defendants are insane (Hans).  This kind of reaction called for a better way to define insanity.

In criminal law there is not an agreed upon definition of insanity.  For the most part, people think that defendants who have a mental illness or are psychotic are insane.  However, “…psychosis does not equal insanity.  It is very possible for a defendant to be psychotic but not considered insane.  It is equally possible, though less likely, for a defendant to be found insane but not meet the qualifications for psychosis” (Torry, and Billick).  Problems like this frequently arise because of the abundance of definitions of insanity.  The hardest part of developing a definition for insanity is where to draw the line.  When asked in a survey to define insanity after the Hinckley trial, Valerie Hans a social psychologist found that, “Only one of our 434 respondents gave a reasonably good approximation of the Model Penal Code definition of legal insanity which was used in the Hinckley case” (Hans, and Slater).  There needs to be better education for the general public in order for the insanity defense to continue.

The idea of blame is frequently called into question during trials involving the insanity defense.  If we accept that free will exists, then we need to decide as a society what constitutes moral right and wrong.  “…does knowledge of wrongfulness mean ‘legally’ wrong or ‘morally ‘ wrong?  Is the test for ‘wrongfulness’ a test of whether or not he or she knew it was legally wrong but feel morally obliged to act, or is the test whether or no the person knew it was wrong in both a legal and moral sense?” (Allnutt, Samuels, and O’Driscoll).  These questions lead to the consideration of mens rea in cases.  Mens rea, translated to mean guilty mind, refers to the intention to commit a wrongful act.  For someone to be guilty of an offense they need actus reus, the wrongful act, and mens rea.  Therefore, when a person is said to be insane, they do not have mens rea; and henceforth, are not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mens rea cannot be the only thing considered in a definition of insanity.  An example of when more needs to be considered is: if a defendant intended to commit the crime, however, they were in psychotic state.  A jury could say the defendant was in the right mind because he planned the crime but the delusions he was having caused him to not feel guilty.  This brings the question of whether this defendant is insane or not.  On one hand, he was in right mind enough to intend to commit the crime.  However, he planned the crime under morally incorrect delusions.  Situations like this call for further tests of insanity besides mens rea.  The American Psychological Association needs to come together with lawmakers to make official rules for insanity defense trials.  There have been several laws regarding the trials but there needs to be an official definition of insanity and a universal test for insanity.  If this does not happen, then criminals could take advantage over the disputes and commit a crime in a state where they are more likely to be acquitted than in a state that has no insanity defense option at all.  In order for there to be a consensus on an insanity definition: mens rea, psychologists’ opinions, and social views must be taken into consideration.  Once there is an understanding between the public, law, and medical communities then juries can be informed enough to make decisions regarding insanity.

The definition of insanity is not the only thing that needs to be reformed.  The role of psychologists needs to be reformed as well.  For example, look at a popular insanity defense case.  Is a mother who drowns her kids guilty of murder?  Most would say, yes.  However, what if it was discovered that she was under the delusion that her kids were sinners and that killing them would send them to heaven instead of allowing them to sin and go to hell?  This is where the insanity defense arrises.  The case mentioned above is the one of Andrea Yates who drowned her five children in their home bathtub.  One would immediately start to think that Yates is insane because of her delusion that supposedly led her to kill her kids.  She also had a long history of mental illness and had been to several psychiatric institutions.  However, Yates had a lot of rational moments that call into question the insanity defense.  She was aware that killing her kids was a sin and was wrong and immediately called authorities after doing so.  Moreover, the murders seemed to be premeditated since she chose a time in the day when no one else would be at her home. (Doherty)  The prosecution called upon a psychiatrist, Park Dietz, to talk to and evaluate Yates.  He determined her to be sane because she knew at the time what she was doing was wrong.  Dietz even insinuated that Yates had gotten the idea from an episode of Law and Order.  It was discovered a little later that there was no episode of Law and Order that involved a woman drowning her kids and being found not guilty by reason of insanity.  This little mistake in testimony was big enough to have been able to sway the jury; so the case was overturned.

This mistake in testimony led to the discussion of whether expert witnesses such as psychologists and psychiatrists should be allowed in insanity defense trials.  This debate was brought up originally during the Hinckley trial when many people did not think that psychologists were useful.  In a survey conducted by Hans, “91.2% think that psychiatrists should testify about a defendant’s mental condition in insanity trials.  About half however, believe that ‘if psychiatrists were paid enough, they will say anything about a defendant’s sanity’” (Hans).  These responses showed that while the public thought that psychiatrists should be used somehow in an insanity trial, they only had, “modest faith in the abilities of psychiatrists to determine legal insanity” (Hans).  When the Yates’ case was overthrown, people began to question the use of psychologists again.  One error in a psychologist’s testimony had caused the case to be thrown out and eventually overturned.

If the psychologist had not testified at all, what would the outcome of Yates’ case been?  Questions like this cast doubt upon the role of psychiatrists.  How much of a diagnosis should an psychiatrist be allowed to give?  Another question is the use of multiple or competing psychiatrists.  It is reported that, “agreement on whether or not a defendant has psychosis rarely approaches a level as high as 90% even when the clinicians come from the same background” (Torry, and Billick).   In the end, it is up to the jury to decide whether the defendant is insane or not.  The psychiatrist may be allowed to give his opinion or speculation, but should not be allowed to give an official diagnosis.  “For the most part, what scientific expert witnesses in such cases do is to interpret actions, not analyze objective facts” (Doherty).  If definitive statements are made by psychiatrists, they might sway the jury; who are the ultimate deciders.

Ultimately, many things need to be done in order to reform the insanity defense.  Reform will not happen overnight.  There is hope for change since there has already been so much reform since the M’Naghten case.  If there is a standard definition of insanity, the jury would be able to make more informed decisions regarding the sanity of the defendant.  Also, not letting psychologists make absolute statements will allow the jury to make the decision of insanity for themselves.  Combining these two things will allow the insanity defense to be reformed as to improve justice for future generations.

Works Cited

Allnutt Stephen, Anthony Samuels, and Colman O’Driscoll. “The Insanity Defence: from Wild Beasts to M’Naghten.” Australasian Psychiatry 15.4 (2007): 292-298. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.
Doherty, Brian. “You Can’t See Why on an fMRI.” Reason 39.3 (2007): 34-43. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web 11 Apr. 2011.

Hans, Valerie. “An Analysis of Public Attitutudes Toward the Insanity Defense.” Criminology 24.2 (1986): Print.

Hans, Valerie and Dan Slater. “John Hinckley Jr. And the Insanity Defense: The Public’s Verdict.” Public Opinion Quarterly. 47. (1983): Print.

Hathaway, Mar. “The Moral Significance of the Insanity Defence.” Journal of Criminal Law. 73.4 (2009): 310-317. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Apr. 2011.

Torry, Zachary D., and Stephen B. Billick. “Overlapping Universe: Understanding Legal Insanity and Psychosis.” Psychiatric Quarterly 81.3 (2010): 253-262. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.

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Gap AB: The Public’s Verdict

Citation:

Hans, Valerie and Dan Slater.  “John Hinckley Jr. And the Insanity Defense: The Public’s Verdict.” Public Opinion Quarterly. 47. (1983): Print.

(Hans, and Slater)

Summary:

This article is about a survey done after the Hinckley trial to get the public’s opinion regarding his verdict and sentencing.  The survey also includes thoughts on the insanity defense in general and its implications for criminal justice.  The article says that after the Hinckley trial, three-quarters of Americans surveyed felt that “justice had not been done”.  Many surveys have showed that people have negative attitudes towards the insanity defense, but have many misconceptions regarding it.

In the survey, most people thought Hinckley was guilty, but not insane.  22.5% believed that he would only stay seven to twelve months in a mental hospital.  Over half believed that Hinckley should be both punished and treated.  Finally, over half of the respondents that that the verdict was not at all fair.

When asked about the definition of insanity, 70.8% gave an incorrect definition or did not know at all.  This means that either people were uneducated about the insanity defense or that there were too many different definitions for them to choose from.  It is stated in the article that, “Only one of our 434 respondents gave a reasonably good approximation of the Model Penal Code definition of legal insanity which was used in the Hinckley case”.  The writers of the survey call for more education for the public on the insanity defense and its uses.

Relevance:

This article gave me a lot of statistics that I can use in my paper.  The Hinckley trial is probably the best trial to get research of opinions from.  Since it was so public, the trial created a lot of controversy.  This survey also helped me to see what people’s thoughts were regarding the insanity defense and insanity itself.  Most were not even able to give a definition of legal insanity.  Also, most were not confident in psychiatric testimony and questioned whether it should be included or not.

Quotes:

“An ABC News poll conducted the day following the verdict revealed that three-quarters of the Americans surveyed felt ‘justice had not been done’ in the Hinckley case.”

“Only one of our 434 respondents gave a reasonably good approximation of the Model Penal Code definition of legal insanity which was used in the Hinckley case.”

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Gap AB: Analysis of Public Attitudes

Citation:

Hans, Valerie. “An Analysis of Public Attitudes Toward the Insanity Defense.” Criminology. 24.2 (1986): Print.

Summary:

This article discusses the results of an opinion survey of the insanity defense.  Researchers decided to find out what people thought about the insanity defense and if it should be reformed.  They discuss some of the results from an earlier survey of people’s thoughts on the insanity defense after Hinckley’s trial.  Most people had more of a problem with the fact that Hinckley was acquitted versus the fact that he was declared insane.  People wanted him to be charged with Guilty But Insane.

Many of the respondents agreed with the classic statements about the insanity defense being a loophole for criminals and that it needs to be reformed.  Most of the time people expresses discontent for the insanity defense but hope in that it can change.  A lot of the respondents think that judges and juries have a hard time telling whether defendants are insane or not.  This leads them to sometimes question the accuracy of the insanity defense.

Also, people do not agree on whether psychiatrists should be considered reliable testifiers of insanity.  As is said in the article, about half of the respondents thought that a psychologist, if paid enough, would say anything the defendant wanted them to regarding their sanity.  This response leads to the question of whether psychologists should be allowed in trials at all.

Relevance:

This article gave me some good research that I can use in my paper.  A lot of their questions have to do with my topic and the responses will support it.  It is good to have real data to back up your claim.

Quotes:

“As representatives of the public, juries appear to be unsympathetic to defendants’ please of insanity.”

“Researchers have shown that agreement with the statement that the insanity defense is a loophole is significantly associated with support for the death penalty.”

“…after Hinckley’s insanity acquittal, some members of the public said that if Hinckley had been found Guilty But Insane they would not have been as disturbed by the verdict.”

“one survey of public opinion of the Hinckley trial indicated that people had very low confidence in the psychiatric evidence presented in the Hinckley trial and only modest faith in the abilities of psychiatrists to determine legal insanity.”

“94.7% the insanity defense needs a lot of reform”

“9 out of 10 agree that judges and juries have a hard time telling whether defendants are really sane or insane”

“9 out of ever 10 respondents agree that the insanity defense is a loophole allowing too many guilty people to go free”

“91.2% think that psychiatrists should testify about a defendant’s mental condition in insanity trials.  About half however, believe that ‘if psychiatrists were paid enough, they will say anything about a defendant’s sanity’”

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Working pages

The insanity defense is a major debate in the criminal justice system.  “The defense of insanity is a minute part of the squalor of the American criminal justice system.  There are only about 3,500 people held as not guilty of reason of insanity at the present moment” (moral significance)

The first use of the insanity defense is not known but it was determined that it was during the time of Ancient Greece.  The modern concept of insanity did not enter criminal law until the M’Naghten case in 1843.  Daniel M’Naghten was a man that tried to assassinate the Prime Minister of England because he thought that the government was conspiring against him.  M’Naghten ended up killing the Prime Minister’s assistant, thinking that it was the Prime Minister.  M’Naghten was acquitted because he was considered insane and paranoid at the time of the murder.  The case led to rules of how to define insanity during a trial.  The M’Naghten rules are a list of sets of defects of the mind that affected the accused person’s brain during a crime (Allnutt).  It created the first guilty but insane verdict.

Reform for the insanity defense became popular among the public after the trial of John Hinckley in 1981.  Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan.  When he was acquitted on the basis of not guilty by reason of insanity, the public began to call for reform.  People did not understand how a person who attempted to murder the president could not have gone to jail.

The adjudication stage is the submission of either an insanity or guilty but mentally ill plea.  Changes that can be made include deciding on a standard test of mental illness.  Options for the test include the cognitive test, the control test, the M’Naghten test, or the ALI test.  Also, the standard of proof can be changed.  Proof has to be given to the jury that the defendant is insane, however, the depth of the proof can be up for debate.  There can either be a preponderance amount of proof, a clear and convincing amount or proof, or evidence beyond a reasonable doubt.  During the disposition stage, reform can occur in where the defendant will be sent, who decides to release them from where they are sent, and what the burden of proof needs to be in order to be released.

The idea of blame is frequently called into question during trials involving the insanity defense.  If we accept that free will exists, then we need to decide as a society what constitutes moral right and wrong.  “…does knowledge of wrongfulness mean ‘legally’ wrong or ‘morally ‘ wrong?  Is the test for ‘wrongfulness’ a test of whether or not he or she knew it was legally wrong but feel morally obliged to act, or is the test whether or no the person knew it was wrong in both a legal and moral sense?” (insanity defense)

Adjudication stage, verdict stage, and postverdict disposition stage (pg. 13 hinckley book)

Mens rea, translated to mean guilty mind, refers to the intention to commit a wrongful act.  For someone to be guilty of an offense they need actus reus, the wrongful act, and mens rea.

There are many suggestions put forth for how the insanity defense should be reformed.

Burden of proof

Ruled abolition unconstitutional (pg 255 on trial)

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Areas of Discussion

The areas of discussion that will be used in my essay are:

Morality:  I chose morality because it is very important when looking at the insanity defense and whether it is morally just to punish a person that is mentally ill.

Sources:

Overlapping Universe: Whether a person can be blamed for their crime.  Did they not or could they no exercise self-control?  Did they know what they did was wrong/unlawful?

You Can’t See Why:  Hard to define insanity.  Hard to prove insanity.  Frequent disagreement over diagnoses/application.  Insanity defense vs. mens rea.  What is the relationship between the mind and the brain?  Free will and the brain?

Moral Significance: Moral blame/liability.  Choice/free will to commit a crime  Should a psychotic condition count as an excuse vs. social pressures counting too?  Assuming that anyone is sufficient enough to make moral judgements.  Defense is essential to moral integrity of the criminal law.  Causation vs. excuse.

The Insanity Defense: Deterrence and retribution applicable to defendant?  Opinions on psychiatrists.  Not many specific legal definitions of insanity.  Capacity to understand legal wrongness and moral wrongness.  Impulse.  Feelings of society.

Reform:  I chose to put reform in my essay because it is important to not just look at the debate between abolition and anti-abolition, but also to look at how people intend to reform the insanity defense.

Sources:

Overlapping Universe:  Role of psychiatrists in trial.  Guilty but Mentally Ill option.  Keep M’Naghten and Insanity Defense Reform Act

You Can’t See Why:  Less neuroimaging evidence and more psychiatric discussion evidence.  Bring ideas of society/ morals of society into evidence along with law.

Moral Significance:  Abolition vs. Anti-abolition views on whether to use the M’Naghten test or not

Insanity Defense: Should psychiatry be allowed?  More specific definition of insanity needed.  Make sure psychiatrists only talk about relevant issues within their expertise.

I think those are the major areas of discussion that will be in my essay.  I feel like I will look at the areas from both sides of the argument and then figure out what I will state as my claim.

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Circles of Evidence

The common areas of discussion were:

Morality

Reform

Definition of Insanity

Punishment

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Annotated Bibliography 4: You Can’t See Why

Citation:

Doherty, Brian. “‘You Can’t See Why on an fMRI.’.” Reason 39.3 (2007): 34-43. Academic        Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.

Summary:

This article is about how neuroimaging and neuroscience is affecting the judicial system and what science can tell us about the insanity defense.   The main example given in the article is the case of Andrea Yates, the woman who drowned her five kids.  The insanity defense was immediately brought up in her trial, however proof did not come from new neuroimaging, it came from regular psychologists interacting with her.  An image of the brain can tell you if there is an abnormality or what the brain is thinking about.  However, it cannot tell you why someone does something, you have to talk with the person to figure that out.

All of the different important cases regarding the insanity defense are brought up and it is discussed that the judicial system does not actually have to follow the guidance of psychiatric experts.  This was shown in the case of Eric Clark who shot a police officer claiming he was an alien.  When Clark wanted to use the testimony of a psychiatrist, the court did not allow it because it declared that the testimony may not be very ‘expert’ at all.  Ultimately there were two psychiatric witnesses who turned out to just confuse the jury more because they could not agree how Clark’s mental illness affected his decision making.

In conclusion, the effectiveness of neuroimaging is brought up.  Nowadays it tends to be the evidence of choice to show mental illness.  However, the images cannot explain the behaviors of the defendant and sometimes the doctors over-interpret the data.  The article also talks about how chemicals can affect the brain and vice versa.  When it comes to neuroscience, some people have concluded that it cannot tell us whether we should hold people legally responsible for their actions or not.  One must talk to the defendant to find out more information about them than an brain scan can show.

Relevance:

This article is helpful to me because it puts the effect of neuroimaging in trials into perspective.  I always thought that brain scans were very important, however, it seems that psychiatric conversations might be more useful in conveying why the defendant did something to the jury.  It was helpful to read about recent cases where both scans and testimonies have been used and how each of them affected the jurors.  I now know to focus more on the psychological aspect of the insanity defense then the neurological aspect.

Quotations:

“…underlie the medical concept of mental illness and the legal concept of insanity, both of which allow us to categorize and explain that which we cannot, or do not want to, understand”

“…the real role of psychiatry in the courts is far from objective and unimpeachable”

“For the most part, what scientific expert witnesses in such cases do is to interpret actions, not analyze objective facts.”

“‘…sometimes serious questions as to whether [professional psychiatric] input has actually helped or hindered the justice system’”

“‘You need to understand why.  And you can’t see why on an fMRI’”

 

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Annotated Bibliography 3: Overlapping Universe

Citation:

Torry, Zachary D., and Stephen B. Billick. “Overlapping Universe: Understanding Legal          Insanity and Psychosis.” Psychiatric Quarterly 81.3 (2010): 253-262. Academic Search      Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.

Summary:

This article talks about how psychosis and legal insanity interact.  The writer is fairly unbiased and mostly presents history and definitions behind insanity.  He talks about how forensic psychiatrists are used in insanity defense trials.  The article then goes on to talk about all of the different tests that have been used to determine insanity over the years.  These include the M’Naghten Test, irresistible impulse test, durham and product test, A.L.I, model penal code,the insanity defense reform act of 1984, burden of proof, and GBMI.

In the article, it is stated that psychosis does not always equal insanity and vice versa.  However, in most cases where someone is declared not guilty by reason of insanity, the person was psychotic at the time.  Being in psychosis is hard to prove though because psychiatrists do not always agree on whether or not the defendant was psychotic.  It is very important to know the difference between psychosis and insanity so that one can be informed when at a trial.  The misuse of these words can quickly cause confusion among jurors and then lead to the testimony being discarded.

Finally, the article talks about the position that a clinician will be in if one of their clients commits an offense.  It gives information on how to handle testifying and what should be said.  The article also discusses that the clinician needs to look carefully to figure out whether a diagnosed mental disorder led to the crime or not.  It is said that it might be helpful for a clinician to consult a forensic psychiatrist who is more specialized in what constitutes as insanity in criminal law.

Relevance:

This article helped me by teaching me about the different stages that the insanity defense has gone through.  I was able to learn the main different laws there have been to define insanity.  This will help me if I want to compare the laws or suggest returning to a previous law.  Also, I could try to find new ways to improve the laws.  The article furthermore helped me to learn the difference between psychosis and insanity and how the terms can be properly used in trial.

Quotations:

“The insanity defense is viewed by some as a “loophole” for defendants and a scheme that clever attorneys and mental health professionals exploit to acquit their criminal clients and permit dangerous people to roam freely in society”

“The reality is that the insanity defense is used in only 1% of criminal cases, and it is used successfully in only 10-25% of those”

“Moreover, defendants who are found insane generally spend as much or more time in state custody then their criminally convicted counterparts”

“‘Our collective conscience does not allow punishment where it cannot impost blame.’  It is therefore inappropriate to punish unless the person has the capacity to ‘make autonomous choices over their behavior’”

“…psychosis does not equal insanity.  It is very possible for a defendant to be psychotic but not considered insane.  It is equally possible, though less likely, for a defendant to be found insane but not meet the qualifications for psychosis.”

“Furthermore, agreement on whether or not a defendant has psychosis rarely approaches a level as high as 90% even when the clinicians come from the same background”

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Annotated Bibliography 2: The Insanity Defence

Citation:

Allnutt, Stephen, Anthony Samuels, and Colman O’Driscoll. “The insanity defence: from           wild beasts to M’Naghten.” Australasian Psychiatry 15.4 (2007): 292-298. Academic         Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Apr. 2011.

Summary:

This article talks about the history of the insanity defense and how it has been used.  The author presents an unbiased history of the insanity defense.  He talks about that it was not until the M’Naghten case that the modern concept of insanity entered criminal law.  This case led to the M’Naghten rules for defining insanity in a trial.  In summary, these are sets of defects of the mind that affected the accused person’s brain during a crime.  The article then goes on to discuss how forensic psychiatrists are used during trial.

There are many definitions and criteria for insanity in different places.  There is also a wide range of names that are used instead of insanity.  Important cases are brought up that have helped to more closely define insanity and its criteria.  An important debate that is brought up is wrongfulness.  In many cases it is debated as to whether the accused knows what they did was morally and legally wrong.  In some instances, the person does not know, which then leads to the insanity defense.  Another issue brought up is whether a person was able to resist impulses or not and if that is considered in an insanity defense.

The article sums up by saying that the insanity defense is a very old concept that even pre-dates psychiatry.  Through the years scientists and psychologists have been able to better define what constitutes the insanity defense.  However, there are still many issues in the defense that are not clear and subject to much debate.  Furthermore, the article discusses the public’s view on an insanity defense case if the person is acquitted.  It says that most people think that the defendant “has gotten away with” something and should be more harshly punished.

Relevance:

This article helps me to be able to define the M’Naghten rules better and to be able to apply them more accurately to insanity defenses.  It also gave me a lot of different definitions and opinions on what insanity is.  Forensic psychiatrists were mentioned along with how they are used effectively in a trial.  I think the most important part of the article for me is the definitions of concepts related to the insanity defense over the years.

Quotations:

“…product rule. This rule state that ‘the accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act was the product of mental disease or defect’”

“…does knowledge of wrongfulness mean ‘legally’ wrong or ‘morally’ wrong?  Is the test for ‘wrongfulness’ a test of whether or not he or she knew it was legally wrong but felt morally obliged to act, or is the test whether or not the person knew it was wrong in both a legal and moral sense?”

“…is the test whether or not the person knew that others would have seen his or her actions as wrong but acted according to his or her own subjective perspective of what was right or wrong for themselves, or is the test whether or not the person believed that others would view the act as right as they do?”

“…’an irresistible impulse or an impulse not resisted’, that is, whether or not the person was genuinely incapable of controlling the behavior or whether or not he or she chose not to inhibit the behavior”

“Thomas Szasz, the famous ‘anti-psychiatrist’, has stated that ‘psychiatric justice; is the harshest form of justice”

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Annotated Bibliography 1: “The Moral Significance of the Insanity Defence”

Citation:

Hathaway, Mark. “The Moral Significance of the Insanity Defence.” Journal of Criminal            Law 73.4 (2009): 310-317. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Apr. 2011.

Summary:

This paper was written to address and examine both the pro-abolitionist and anti-abolitionist ideas on the insanity defense.  The writer presents this information fairly unbiased, possibly leaning a little towards the anti-abolitionist side.  He includes many quotes from important figures in the field of criminal morality.  The paper presents many key points and thinkers.

The mens rea approach is brought up as the basis of the criminal system in this paper.  Mens rea, translated to mean guilty mind, refers to the intention to commit a wrongful act.  In insanity defense trials, mens rea is brought up frequently because it is considered one of the things you have to have in order to be guilty of a crime.  The proposition is that if a defendant does not have mens rea, then they should be considered for the insanity.

The paper also brings up the arguments of Morris and Morse, respectively an abolitionist and an anti-abolitionist.  Morris says that there should not be any special defense for the insane and that the ordinary common law and principles of mens rea should apply to them.  He argues against the idea that a person should not be punished where he or she cannot be blamed.  He says that the statement assumes that responsibility of a person is a yes or no question and it assumes that problems in being able to choose are excused more than all other pressures on behavior.  If there is an insanity defense, there should be a social adversity defense as well because that also causes pressure.

Morse, an anti-abolitionist, argues that the “insanity defense is essential to the moral integrity of the criminal law”.  He says that the insanity defense is based on the moral principles of excuse that are accepted in criminal law.  Responsibility in criminal law is based on cognitive competence and since a mentally ill person is not mentally competent, they cannot be held for committing an offense.  Morse believes, however, that there should be stricter writing about the insanity defense and what qualifies.

Relevance:

This article helps me learn the views of each side of argument and what their reasoning is.  I was able to look unbiasedly at the anti-abolitionist and abolitionist point of views and their main supporters.  This article can help me to decide which side I want to argue on and which side has more expert opinions behind it.  It also gave me some ideas for what could be changed in the insanity defense if it is to be continued.

Quotations:

“Glueck wrote, ‘not a modern text or compilation begins the discussion of the subject of insanity and its relation to the criminal law without a doleful reference to chaos in this field’”

“Fingarette defines criminal insanity as ‘the individual’s mental makeup at the time of the offending act was such that, with respect to the criminality of his conduct, he substantially lacked capacity to act rationally’”

“Brady states that ‘the purpose of the insanity defense is to exempt from the stigma of moral blame accompanying conviction those who, because their conduct is not voluntary, are not proper subjects of moral blame’”

“‘The defense of insanity is a minute part of the squalor of the American criminal justice system. There are only about 3,500 people held as not guilty by reason of insanity at the present moment in the United States’”

(Britain)“…1953 Royal Commission on Capital Punishment, which described the insanity defence as ann ‘ancient and humane principle that has long formed part of out common law’”

(maybe Britain)“The Report of the Committee on Mentally Abnormal Offenders confirmed this view stating that ‘if a person was, at the time of his unlawful act, mentally so disordered that it would be unreasonable to impute guilt to him, he ought not to be held liable to conviction and punishment under the criminal law’”

“The fact that abolition was, unsurprisingly, favoured by the Reagan administration and has been  advocated by influential bodies such as the American Medical Association…”

“Total abolition ‘would disallow completely any evidence of an accused’s mental abnormailty during the guilt phase of the trial…’”

“It must be noted that in the early 20th century attempts to abolish totally the insanity defence were made in the USA, but failed, as they were deemed unconstitutional.”

“‘People have free choice to do good or ill. If they choose to do ill, they may be blamed and punished.  But if they do no choose to do ill, it is morally insensitive to punish them.’”

“‘social adversity is grossly more potent in its pressure toward criminality..than is any psychotic condition’”

“As Bonnie asserts, the ‘whole issue ultimately boils down to one of moral intuition’”

“‘it is pretentious in the extreme to think that anyone has the sufficiently sensitive caliber to make…delicate moral judgments’”

“‘insanity defense…is essential to the moral integrity of the criminal law’”

“The moral basis of the insanity defence is that there can be no just punishment without desert and no desert without responsibility.  Responsibility is based on minimal cognitive and volitional competence so deserve to be punished…it cannot be just to hold responsible a person who was mentally disordered when he committed an offence”

“It can be seen, therefore, that even among anti-abolitionists in the USA there is a deep dissatisfaction with the insanity defence and a desire to narrow its scope”

“‘Knowledge of the law is hardly an appropriate test on which to base ascription of responsibility to the mentally disordered.  It is a very narrow ground of exemption since even persons who are grossly disturbed generally know that murder and arson are crimes’”

“As Morse states, ‘insanity defense must be retained because it is fundamentally just’”

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