StudyBoss » Crime » Insanity Defense Essay

Insanity Defense Essay

Killers are born among sheep, because no one will ever suspect them from arising. The definition of insanity is, A defense for criminal liability that asserts a lack of criminal responsibility due to mental instability (Gaines & Miller p. 81). Throughout history there have been cases, where people have used the insanity defense to explain their actions. Pleading insanity is difficult to accomplish, but this does not stop people from using this defense. There have been a couple of cases that use the insanity defense, but they were found to be sane at the time the crime was committed.

On the other hand there have been several cases that have used the insanity defense, and were found to be mentally unstable. Anyone can say that their actions should not imprison them, because they have a mental disorder. There are steps that must be followed in order to classify someone as mentally insane. Insanity is measured by three principles. The principles include if they do not understand the consequences of their conduct, can not tell if their conduct is wrong, and is not able to control their conduct (Gaines & Miller p. 81).

To prove insanity there are a series of test that can be done, in order to classify someone as insane. Those test include include the M’Naghten rule, the Substantial- Capacity test, and the Irresistible-impulse test. Criminals can also be found guilty, but mentally ill. The insanity defense is rarely used, because it is hard to prove that someone is actually insane. It also can come down to the jury, to decide whether or not the defendant is actually mentally ill(Gaines & Miller p. 82). There have been cases where people use the insanity defense, because of their mental illness.

Some cases that used the insanity defense and were successful were Eddie Routh, and Andrea Yates. The insanity defense did not work for Andrew Goldstein, Jonathan Schmit and many others. Even though the insanity plea can be used by those who have a mental disorder, those that are sane use it as a way to diminish their sentencing. The insanity defense has been around for centuries, but it was not considered a legal term defense. Back then there were three test that were used, in order to classify someone as legally insane(Historical Perspective of Insanity).

Those three were the Wild Beast Test, The insane Delusion test, and “test of capacity to distinguish between right and wrong”(Historical Perspective of Insanity). These three laws were the foundation for the M’naghten rule. The M’naghten rule was the result of a case that happened in 1843. Daniel M’naghten shot and killed Edward Drummond, because he believed Drummond was planning something against him(Historical Perspective of Insanity). Now we have three test that can be used in order to prove someone is legally insane. The first test is the M’Naghten Rule, which basically tries to prove whether not the defendant knew right from wrong.

The second test is the Substantial-Capacity test, aka ALI/MPC TEST, which tries to determine whether the person responsible lacked substantial capacity to understand the wrongfulness of their actions(Gaines & Miller p. 81). The last test is called the Irresistible-impulse. This test is defined as, A defendant who knew his or her action was wrong may still be found insane if he or she was unable, as a result of a mental deficiency, to refrain from acting( Gaines & Miller p. 81). The easiest one of the three is the Substantial-Capacity Test, because it is easier to show that someone lacked substantial capacity.

Anyone can use the insanity defense, but the hard part is actually showing that they are actually insane. Although it is hard to prove someone in insane, not crazy, it has been accomplished in the past. Insanity 4 The insanity defense is difficult to accomplish, but it has been used in the past with success. Those who were able to successfully use the insanity defense, were sentenced to a mental hospital rather than prison. Which is why some attorneys push for the insanity defense, for their clients. They see it as the easy way out, because being sent to a mental institution is more convenient than prison.

In one particular case the suspect was sentenced, but then after revaluation was considered insane. This case deals with a woman who drowned her five kids in her bathtub. This woman is called, Andrea Yates, and has a history of postpartum depression and psychosis. Postpartum depression, is a clinical depression related to pregnancy and childbirth, which occurs within the first 4 years after delivery( WebMD. Understanding Postpartum Depression). Psychosis is a mental disorder where people lose touch with reality and see, hear, or believe things that aren’t real.

Yates was originally charged with first degree murder, but after a couple of years was found not guilty by reason of insanity. She was sentenced to North Texas State Hospital. She was originally sentenced to life in prison with eligibility of parole(BIO/People/ Andrea Yates, but no one ever serves their entire sentence. Yates only served four years behind bars, until a court reviewed her case. Although Yates could of had parole in about 40 years, inmates usually leave before their time is over. Those that are sent to mental hospital, have more freedom than being sent to prison.

In mental hospitals when the patient is significantly at a better state of mind, they are more likely to be given the opportunity to leave. Which is why some people would push to be sent to a mental institution. Just like prison, being in mental hospitals can take years to be given the chance to leave. The insanity defense is not always accepted at first, Yates is a good example, because she originally was found guilty. Even though Yates had a history of battling depression, at first, was not enough to be found legally insane.

Being sent to a mental hospital rather than prison/jail, depends on the severity of the crime committed. Calling someone insane is not easy, but has been done in the past. It can change a life sentence in prison, to being sent to a hospital for rehabilitation. People have used the insanity defense and were successful; There have been cases where people have used it and were still found guilty. The insanity defense has been used by many, but the outcomes are never the same. In some cases it has proved to be successful, but in other it was rejected. Being crazy does not mean that someone is crazy.

Someone who is sane and has no criminal record, does not turn evil overnight. In a journal written at the MacEwan University, by the Department of Sociology, it talks about how mental disorders is difficult to accomplish. It states Determining criminal insanity is often a complicated and controversial issue within the legal system. Psychiatrists may not fully understand jurisprudence of the mental disorder defence, legal professionals may not be fully familiar with psychiatric discourse, and the general public is often confused and alarmed by a finding of “not criminally responsible on account of mental disorder.

It talks about how insanity is a difficult defense for the legal system. It is difficult for psychiatrists to understand the insanity plea, and it is difficult for people who are not psychology majors to understand mental disorders. The professionals are not the only one who have trouble with this defense, because the general public will also be puzzled. Even though some people can claim that they are insane, the court it the one that ultimately decides. Insanity cases are rarely Insanity 6 won, because it is difficult to convince the judge and the jury.

An example of this is the case of David Berkowitz’s, also known as The “Son of San”. First of all, police officers had no doubt that Berkowitz’ had committed the crime, because he had left notes about them( Law. jrank. org “Son of Sam Trial”: 1978. The crime being murder, attempted murder and assault( Law. jrank. org “Son of Sam Trial”: 1978). His nickname ” Son of Sam” is said to come from, him being possessed by a demon. This demon would order Berkowitz to kill people, and this demon apparently would talk through a neighbor’s dog( Cases.

Law/David Berkowitz). Despite a psychologist testimony, he was believed to be sane by the court. In the court they said that his demonic possession was a ” Conscious Invention”(Law. jrank. org “Son of Sam Trial”: 1978). In the end, he was convicted and sent to prison. Who would have thought that even though he was crazy, he was not considered insane. He plea was not enough to convince the judge that he was mentally insane. The insanity plea has a small percentage of it actually working. He said he was possessed by a demon, but he took orders from a dog.

Some would consider him crazy, because he was taking order from a dog. It all made sense too Berkowitz, but it made no sense to anyone else. The insanity defense has been used in the past, but with different outcomes. It all depends on the information that is presented to the jury and the judge. It all depends on how attorneys present their evidence to the judge. Even though Berkowitz was crazy, not insane, it was not enough to convince the judge that he was insane. The insanity plea is difficult to use, because no matter how crazy one is portrayed to be, crazy is not the same as insane.

Cite This Work

To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below:

Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.
Reference Copied to Clipboard.