The Insanity Plea Essay Research Paper In

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The Insanity Plea Essay, Research Paper In the world today, there are many mentally unbalanced humans, those who can t resist certain impulses due to their mental capacity. People who can t determine right from wrong or even people who cannot control their own self. Some of these people can be classified as criminals. They have done something unacceptable to society. How are these people judged? Is it fair to hold them responsible and seek to punish them? The courts in all civilized nations have accepted that those who are insane cannot be treated the same as a sane offender. This view has resulted in what we know today as The Insanity Plea. Offenders who are truly unbalanced can be found not guilty of a crime by reason of insanity. This is left to question, what consists of

a truly mentally unbalanced human? Many Americans feel sane or slightly unbalanced offenders use the plea too easily. The plea is the only fair way of justice for the mentally unbalanced, but stricter rules and regulations should be assessed to prevent abuse of the plea. In ancient societies, a person was judged whether they committed the crime or not. You were guilty or not guilty solely on the facts of the case. In the early thirteenth century, the insanity plea became known to the world. The king would grant pardons to those who were mentally defective and they would not have to serve a prison sentence or be executed . Little was known about mental illnesses and problems arose on the degree of insanity. The English came up with a plea of absolute madness, with a successful

plea the defendant would be free from all charges. Absolute madness was an extremely general rule; therefore the English common law was created. This concept, the ability to determine right from wrong, was the basic guideline in judging insanity cases. In 1843, the assassination attempt on British Prime Minister Robert Peel was the first time the insanity defense was used in a well-known political case. In this case, Daniel M Naghten intentionally, and with premeditation, killed an assistant to the Prime Minister. M Naghten claimed he was being persecuted by the Prime Minister and he pled insanity at the trial. Physicians testified for the defendant based on the behavior of M Naghten after the crime took place. The prosecution made many attempts at disproving the plea of

insanity, by illustrating M Naghten s behavior in planning the assassination. The physicians were well respected and the prosecution agreed to stop the case and the defendant was declared insane. As expected, Queen Victoria and the House of Lords disapproved of the verdict. They called on fifteen judges of the common law courts to answer a series of questions regarding the law of insanity, as it was used in the case of Daniel M Naghten. Their answers became known and established as the M Naghten Rule. The rule consisted of two questions the jury must answer: (1) did the defendant know what he was doing when he committed the crime?; and (2) did the defendant understand that his actions were wrong? This test easily allowed a prosecutor to prove sanity by showing that the defendant

understood the consequences of the action. In the M Naghten rule, mental illness is not an issue because medical evidence was very rare at the time. As technology changed, so did psychiatric knowledge and new theories of mental illnesses evolved. It became apparent that the M Naghten rule was ineffective. The rule was correct, but it only scratched the surface of insanity. Many revisions were made to the rule and soon it was completely thrown out . In 1970, the American Law Institute (ALI) drafted a new test, in which the defense must prove that the defendant lacked the substantial mental capacity either to appreciate the criminality of their conduct or to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law. The new ALI test brings us to what is now the present insanity defense.