The legal definition of insanity stated by therapist Bryan Howes is “n. mental illness of such a severe nature that a person cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, cannot conduct her/his affairs due to psychosis, or is subject to uncontrollable impulsive behavior. ” Which emphasizes the idea that if an individual is not in control of their actions, then they are to be considered insane. In some cases, this period of “unawareness” can compose dangerous situations depending on what actions are performed in his/her unconscious state of mind.
In 2016, Dennis Pozniak, an individual with a history of drug buse and other mental illnesses such as depression and delusions was charged for the murder of two individuals. Dennis had killed his own girlfriend who he had been dating for 3 years and her father that night and claims the last thing he remembers was attempting to kill himself. Dennis stated that “memories of the night are scattered but he recalls trying to wake Nicole Wilson up while she slept on the couch, snorting Adderall in the basement, and taking all his pills with alcohol to try to commit suicide.
He said the only other things he remembers from that night are gathering things to leave for his om, texting his friend and standing in his room, covered in blood from cutting himself with a razor”, Dennis was later taken into custody until he was in a state to defend his actions. During the trial, Dennis assured the judge that he had no purpose or feeling of wanting to cause any harm to Nicole and her father Bryan.
Although the prosecution attempted to convince the judge that Dennis was in fact planning this event based on evidence found in his phone, it was concluded that Dennis was found not guilty due to the mental state he was in during the crime. Despite the fact that Dennis was not sentenced to death, e is still facing a life sentence in prison with a bail of approximately 1 million dollars. This issue of whether or not an individual is truly insane can pose an issue in terms of whether justice has been served.
Criminals may use this insanity defense as a tactic to reduce their sentence or as an attempt to get out of a death trial. If an individual manages to trick the judge into thinking that he/she is insane, then a fair sentence to a crime can never be established. I believe that an Individual is deemed to be insane if he or she has been diagnosed by a medical profession that there is bnormalities in the physiology of their brain, if he/she admits reason or justification for the actions performed, or if the individual has no memory or control over the actions performed.
This definition provides criteria that a judge can use to effectively determine if an individual is insane. An insanity case that focused on the importance of medication was the case of Andrew Goldstein. Andrew was a schizophrenic man who was trialed for murder after throwing a women to her death in front of a subway train. It was found that Mr. Goldstien was prescribed anti-psychotic medication which had allowed im to control his urges to make rash decisions. It was proven during the court trail that without the medication, Goldstien’s ability to comprehend and focus significantly decreased.
Although Mr. Goldstien was found guilty because it was his own fault for not taking the medication, this case effectively shows how the actions of an insane individual can be spontaneous and involuntary. Another insanity case which focuses on whether or not an individual can justify his/her actions is the case of James Holmes. James Holmes was a “normal” individual from San Diego, California, with no criminal record, was educationally talented, nd had a history of depression. James was being trialed for 24 first degree murders and 116 counts of attempt of murder.
James had decided to equip himself with multiple firearms and let loose upon innocent victims at a movie theatre in Colorado in July 20, 2012. James Holmes justifies his actions by stating “They were just “amorphous” numbers, sacrifices to his peculiar point system”, this peculiar point system of James revolved around the idea that taking other people’s lives will add value to his own. Although the jury rejected James’s insanity defense, it was decided that his life was to be spared and was sentenced to ife in prison with no chance of parole.
The insanity defense was rejected because of the extensive planning that went into the event of the shooting. The last case which focuses on situation where an individual performs action which he/she has no memory or control of is the case of William Heirens, a 17 year old student diagnosed with (DID) dissociative personality disorder. This disorder is when two or more individuals with completely different personalities with distinct memories exist in one individual. One of Williams’s personalities was a man named George Murman who could only find gratification through burglaries and murder.
William had only been captured during his fourth burglary attempt where an officer managed to take him into custody. With the help interrogators, it was found out that William had a severe case of dissociative personality disorder which caused him to have no memory of not only the recent burglary, but also the past three victims he had kidnapped. Although it was certain that William did in fact have no control over his actions, prosecutors decided to not lose to an insanity defense and agreed to not seek the death penalty against William.
William had pleaded guilty, however some believe he should not have been accounted guilty of the crimes. Someone might critique my definition of insane by stating that just because an individual has abnormalities in the physiology of their brain, will not impair them from determining right from wrong. Someone could also claim that if they were already medically diagnosed by a profession, they must have been prescribed medication that would aid in tasks such as decision making. However, majority of insanity cases that result in being charged “not guilty”, are situations where the actions performed were spontaneous.
An individual will not know the difference between right and wrong during a state of insanity, therefore it an be assumed that the insane individual might not have been in a state to remember to take their medication. The rule of justice is when the turnout of the events favor the side that was morally correct. This means that the guilty individual receives the fairest possible sentence. A comparison to another insanity defense used, was the case of the Esposita brothers who had clearly faked being insane to get out of a death sentence.
The Esposita brothers set a plan to gain money through robbery and were well equipped to take lives if anyone stood in the way. Both brothers were charged for murder of police officers and itizens. During their court trial, the Esposita brothers pretended to show signs of insanity by speaking in gibberish and banging their heads against the table. The jury was not convinced due to lack of evidence showing past history of insanity and had sentenced them to death by electrocution in 1942.
This is one of many cases where a criminal had attempted to get out of a deserving consequence by using the insanity defense. Although it is rarely the case, some criminals convince the judge that they truly are insane when in fact, they were simply successful in fooling the judge. In comparison to the case of Dennis Pozniak ho clearly was insane, it was determined that there was no benefit to the actions performed by Dennis and it was simply a spontaneous event that was brought due to an insane state of mind.
Is it fair for an individual to get out of their deserved consequence simply because they convinced the judge that they are insane? I believe that unless the individual truly had no control over their actions due to a mental illness, then there is no possible excuse to justify their actions. Every action has a consequence and justice must be served if harm was intentionally done with no reason other than self-fulfillment.