The use of insanity defense in criminal trials

SHARE There are times when the insanity defense, with all the controversy that surrounds it, is in the news. This is one of those times:

The use of insanity defense in criminal trials

The insanity defense is used by criminal defendants. The most common variation is cognitive insanity. Under the test for cognitive insanity, a defendant must have been so impaired by a mental disease or defect at the time of the act that he or she did not know the nature The use of insanity defense in criminal trials quality of the act, or, if the defendant did know the nature or quality of the act, he or she did not know that the act was wrong.

The vast majority of states allow criminal defendants to invoke the cognitive insanity defense. Another form of the insanity defense is volitional insanity, or irresistible impulse.

A defense of irresistible impulse asserts that the defendant, although able to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the act, suffered from a mental disease or defect that made him or her incapable of controlling her or his actions.

This defense is common in crimes of vengeance. For example, suppose that a child has been brutally assaulted. If an otherwise conscientious and law-abiding mother shoots the perpetrator, the mother may argue that she was so enraged that she became mentally ill and incapable of exerting self-control.

Very few states allow the volitional insanity defense. The insanity defense should not be confused with incompetency.

Pleading Insanity in a Criminal Case | leslutinsduphoenix.com

Persons who are incompetent to stand trial are held in a mental institution until they are considered capable of participating in the proceedings. The insanity defense also should be kept separate from issues concerning mental retardation.

The use of insanity defense in criminal trials

Supreme Court ruled in in atkins v. But if a person is acquitted by reason of insanity, execution is not an option. The insanity defense reflects the generally accepted notion that persons who cannot appreciate the consequences of their actions should not be punished for criminal acts.

Most states regulate the defense with statutes, but a few states allow the courts to craft the rules for its proper use. Generally, the defense is available to a criminal defendant if the judge instructs the jury that it may consider whether the defendant was insane when the crime was committed.

The judge may issue this instruction if the defendant has produced sufficient evidence at trial to justify the theory. Sufficient evidence invariably includes expert testimony by psychologists and psychiatrists. When invoking insanity as a defense, a defendant is required to notify the prosecution.

In some states, sanity is determined by the judge or jury in a separate proceeding following the determination of guilt or innocence at trial. In other states, the defense is either accepted or rejected in the verdict of the judge or jury.

Even if evidence of insanity does not win a verdict of not guilty, the sentencing court may consider it as a mitigating factor. History "Complete madness" was first established as a defense to criminal charges by the common-law courts in late-thirteenth-century England.

By the eighteenth century, the complete madness definition had evolved into the "wild beast" test. Under that test, the insanity defense was available to a person who was "totally deprived of his understanding and memory so as not to know what he [was] doing, no more than an infant, a brute, or a wild beast" Feigl Ferguson killed six persons and injured nineteen after opening fire with an automatic pistol on a crowded commuter train.

Ferguson's trial was marked with controversy. He discharged his court-appointed attorneys, who believed him mentally incompetent to stand trial, and was allowed by the judge to act as his own attorney. He dropped the insanity defense prepared by his attorneys and argued that a mysterious gunman had committed the shootings.

His bizarre courtroom behavior appeared to contradict the judge's conclusion that Ferguson was competent to stand trial. Though many witnesses identified Ferguson as the gunman, he insisted a white man had taken the gun from his bag while he slept, shot the passengers, and then escaped, leaving Ferguson, who is black, to take the blame.

During the trial he asserted that he had been charged with ninety-three counts only because the crime occurred in Kuby and william m. Yet Ferguson refused to be examined by either prosecution or defense psychiatrists, believing he was not insane.

The judge allowed Ferguson to stand trial, believing he could understand the nature of the charges against him and could assist in his own defense.

Bymost jurisdictions had refined the wildbeast test to cognitive insanity and supplemented that with irresistible impulse insanity.

However, ina well-publicized assassination attempt in England caused Parliament to eliminate the irresistible impulse defense. Daniel M'Naghten, operating under the delusion that Prime Minister Robert Peel wanted to kill him, tried to shoot Peel but shot and killed Peel's secretary instead.

Medical testimony indicated that M'Naghten was psychotic, and the court acquitted him by reason of insanity M'Naghten's Case, 8 Eng.

In response to a public furor that followed the decision, the House of Lords ordered the Lords of Justice of the Queen's Bench to craft a new rule for insanity in the criminal law.

What emerged became known as the m'naghten rule. This rule migrated to the United States within a decade of its conception, and it stood for the better part of the next century.For example, in the early ’s, the standard for the insanity defense in federal criminal cases was the American Law Institute/Model Penal Code standard.

It provides for acquittal on the basis.

The use of insanity defense in criminal trials

Apr 11,  · Due to the high profile of the case, the public perceived the insanity defense as a loophole in the legal system which allowed a clearly guilty criminal to dodge incarceration. The controversy laid in the fact that prior to the assassination attempt, the insanity defense was only used in 2 percent of the felony cases and in those cases failed over 75 percent of the time.

The Durham standard was a much more lenient guideline for the insanity defense, but it addressed the issue of convicting mentally ill defendants, which was allowed under the M'Naghten Rule.

The Use of the Insanity Defense and High Profile Cases

However, the Durham standard drew much criticism because of its expansive definition of legal insanity. A criminal defendant who is found to have been legally insane when he or she committed a crime may be found not guilty by reason of insanity.

In some cases, the defendant may be found guilty but sentenced to a less severe punishment due to a mental impairment. Jun 01,  · In light of these cases, all just within a few months, it would appear as if the insanity defense is a commonly used defense tactic.

However, it is an extremely rare tactic to take in criminal. When defendants plead not guilty by reason of insanity, they are asserting an affirmative defense—that is, they admit that they committed a criminal act, but seek to excuse their behavior by reason of mental illness that satisfies the definition of legal insanity.

Insanity defense - Wikipedia