An Overview of the United States' Insanity Defense

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For many years it has been quite difficult to differentiate criminality and mental disorders. Many cases have led to uproar on the basis of the mental status of the accused raising the question of insanity defense. Although all criminal activities committed are not as a result of mental dysfunction or disorder, it is worth noting that a good number of people have turned to criminal life as a result of insanity. How then do courts, lawyers and other law makers and judges come to conclusion regarding whether criminals are considered guilty or are released on insanity defense basis? When does one qualify for this defense? Are there any procedures followed to release a person found innocent within the confines of insanity defense? To comprehend all these, there is no doubt that a clear and precise understanding of insanity defense and plea bargaining is crucial. Additionally, the comprehension is quite fundamental in the arguing of the legitimacy of insanity defense in a court of law.

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What is insanity defense? This refers to an appeal arguing that a defendant is innocent since he/ she did not posess the mental capability of realizing that the act committed was a crime under the law and that it would result into punishment as defined by the law. Many states in the U.S also give a chance to argue that they could not control themselves from committing a particular act even with the understanding that it was criminal. This form of argument has in some cases been referred to as irresistible impulse defense. Although this is a controversial issue that deserves argument, it carries a lot of weight regarding the issue of mental disability and dysfunction versus criminal behavior (Cole & Smith, 2006). This explains whether or not legal institutions need insanity defense or not. Some experts argue that insanity defense is a very important way of checking the moral standards and functionality of systems in terms of facts and evidence. Therefore, it gives judges and juries the legal chance of deciding whether a person is criminally frère even if the committed criminal activities are severely punishable by law. Just the way an infant who has not been taught by parents or how to differentiate wrong from bad is not liable to punishment.

Insanity defense has existed for many years and has revolved around sensitive cases involving very influential and prominent personalities not only in the United States but all over the world not to mention the murder attempt of former U.S President Ronald Reagan. Nevertheless, insanity was initially treated as a form of madness that a psychological disorder. Other people considered it as a form of demonic possession. As a result, many people who were mentally handicapped frequently found themselves in prison where very punishment like torture and execution were administered upon them. However, the court against Daniel M’Naghten in 1843 led to proposals that were aimed at changing the way mentally handicapped people were treated in the arena of criminality (Martin, 1998). Daniel argued that his murder attempt which failed was not intentional but as a result of mental influence. What if the attempt was successful? Would Daniel still have been set free under the insanity defense? Consequently, Daniel was later charged for mistakenly killing the secretary to the Prime Minister. He however pleaded for insanity with his attorney presenting evidence over his mental incapability from psychotic delusions which are not considered invalid. As a result, Daniel was charged of murder.

Although the insanity defense is a legitimate defense, Daniel’s case and many other cases continue to raise uncountable controversial issues. It is important to know that law varies from state to another and also from one country to another. As a result, a defendant may be considered for an insanity defense plea and denied in another place. Some states abolished the use of insanity defense after the issue received US Supreme Court approval (Martin, 1998). On the other hand, some states have gone ahead to amend their laws as attempt of widening their application domain by including those who are found guilty but mentally impaired and reasonable standards of diminished capacity. Despite all these efforts of protecting the rights of mentally handicapped defendants, most insanity defenses are never successful. Legal experts have argued that a number of victims misuse the defense by faking insanity from hospitals and end up winning cases illegally. As a result, many cases involving insanity defense receive the highest order of attention because they have a wider scope of law.

Although it is not easy to state whether insanity defense is legitimate, a clear understanding of the whole process is quite significant. The main challenge that surrounds insanity defense is the inability to prove that a person is mentally handicapped. This is because of the passivity of doctors and psychiatrists colluding to produce false evidence supporting the fact that a defendant is not guilty because of his impaired status. However, under sincere circumstances, insanity defense is legitimate. Would it be fair to punish someone who does not understand between that which is correct and wrong? Would be fair to imprison a person who has no ability to control his behavior? Would be fair to convict a person who does have an idea of the existence of the law? Definitely, there are defendants who are genuine and qualify for insanity defense. Although this should not be considered as a call for insanity faking since the sincerity of insanity lies in the hands of the doctor and in the mind of the defendant. It is also important for those who successfully qualify for insanity defense to undergo thorough medical scrutiny and treatment so that they do not go back to the society to continue propagating criminality. Modalities and strategies need to be put in place to clearly define conditions that makes one to qualify for insanity defense. It should also be double emphasized that insane people are dangerous with or without the coverage by the famous insanity defense.

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