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Insanity Defense



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Insanity defence

The Greeks appeared to share something of today's [ when? Moreover, they saw mental and physical illness as a result of natural causes and an imbalance in bodily humors. Hippocrates frequently wrote that an excess of black bile resulted in irrational thinking and behavior. Romans made other contributions to psychiatry, in particular a precursor of some contemporary practice. The Romans also supported humane treatment of the mentally ill, and in so doing codified into law the principle of insanity as a mitigation of responsibility for criminal acts, [7] although the criterion for insanity was sharply set as the defendant had to be found " non compos mentis ", a term meaning "not sound of mind".

The Middle Ages witnessed the end of the progressive ideas of the Greeks and Romans. During the 18th century, the French and the British introduced humane treatment of the clinically insane, [9] though the criteria for diagnosis and placement in an asylum were considerably looser than today, often including such conditions as speech disorder , speech impediments, epilepsy , and depression or being pregnant out of wedlock.

Europe's oldest asylum was the precursor of today's Bethlem Royal Hospital in London , known then as Bedlam , which began admitting the mentally ill in and is mentioned in Chaucer 's Canterbury Tales. The first American asylum was built in Williamsburg, Virginia , circa Before the 19th century these hospitals were used to isolate the mentally ill or the socially ostracized from society rather than cure them or maintain their health. Pictures from this era portrayed patients bound with rope or chains, often to beds or walls, or restrained in straitjackets.

Insanity is no longer considered a medical diagnosis but is a legal term in the United States, stemming from its original use in common law. In United States criminal law , insanity may serve as an affirmative defense to criminal acts and thus does not need to negate an element of the prosecution's case such as general or specific intent. All jurisdictions require a sanity evaluation to address the question first of whether or not the defendant has a mental illness.

Most courts accept a major mental illness such as psychosis but will not accept the diagnosis of a personality disorder for the purposes of an insanity defense. The second question is whether the mental illness interfered with the defendant's ability to distinguish right from wrong. That is, did the defendant know that the alleged behavior was against the law at the time the offense was committed. Additionally, some jurisdictions add the question of whether or not the defendant was in control of their behavior at the time of the offense. For example, if the defendant was compelled by some aspect of their mental illness to commit the illegal act, the defendant could be evaluated as not in control of their behavior at the time of the offense. The forensic mental health specialists submit their evaluations to the court.

Since the question of sanity or insanity is a legal question and not a medical one, the judge and or jury will make the final decision regarding the defendant's status regarding an insanity defense. In most jurisdictions within the United States, if the insanity plea is accepted, the defendant is committed to a psychiatric institution for at least 60 days for further evaluation, and then reevaluated at least yearly after that. Insanity is generally no defense in a civil lawsuit, but an insane plaintiff can toll the statute of limitations for filing a suit until gaining sanity, or until a statute of repose has run. Feigned insanity is the simulation of mental illness in order to deceive. Amongst other purposes, insanity is feigned in order to avoid or lessen the consequences of a confrontation or conviction for an alleged crime.

A number of treatises on medical jurisprudence were written during the nineteenth century, the most famous of which was Isaac Ray in fifth edition ; others include Ryan , Taylor , Wharton and Stille , Ordronaux , Meymott The typical techniques as outlined in these works are the background for Dr. Neil S. Kaye's widely recognized guidelines that indicate an attempt to feign insanity. One famous example of someone feigning insanity is Mafia boss Vincent Gigante , who pretended for years to be suffering from dementia, and was often seen wandering aimlessly around his neighborhood in his pajamas muttering to himself.

Testimony from informants and surveillance showed that Gigante was in full control of his faculties the whole time, and ruled over his Mafia family with an iron fist. Today feigned insanity is considered malingering. In a court case, United States v. Binion , the defendant was prosecuted and convicted for obstruction of justice adding to his original sentence because he feigned insanity in a Competency to Stand Trial evaluation.

In modern times, labeling someone as insane often carries little or no medical meaning and is rather used as an insult or as a reaction to someone doing something crazy. The following quote defining insanity is often used: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Abnormal mental or behavioral patterns. For other uses, see Insanity disambiguation. For other uses, see Insane disambiguation and Crazy disambiguation. Persons represented by public defenders are usually afforded a psychiatric examination for the defense, but they may not get the same quality of exam, nor are they typically able to hire more than one examiner.

Because a two-tiered criminal justice system is morally repugnant, critics contend that the insanity defense must be abolished. The ALI test provided that a person was not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of the act, the person lacked "substantial capacity" to appreciate the conduct or to conform the conduct to the Rule of Law. The ALI test provided for both cognitive and volitional insanity. It also required only a lack of substantial capacity, less than complete impairment. The ALI version of the insanity defense was adopted by more than half the states and all but one federal circuit. Several years later, another dramatic event led to another round of restrictions on the insanity defense. In , John W. Hinckley, Jr. Hinckley was prosecuted and acquitted of all charges by reason of insanity, and a resulting public outcry prompted Congress to enact legislation on the issue.

Initially, Reagan had called for a total abolition of mental illness as a defense to criminal charges, but his administration backed down from this position after intense Lobbying by various professional organizations and trade associations. The Insanity Act also placed the burden on the defendant to prove insanity. Before the Insanity Act, federal prosecutors bore the burden of proving the defendant's sanity Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Most states joined Congress in reevaluating the insanity defense after Hinckley's acquittal.

The legislatures of these states modified and limited the insanity defense in many and varied ways. Some states shifted the Burden of Proof , and some limited the applicability of the defense in the same manner as Congress did. A few states abolished the defense entirely. Chief Justice william h. Supreme Court, opined in a dissent that it is "highly doubtful that due process requires a State to make available an insanity defense to a criminal defendant" Ake v. Oklahoma , U. When a party successfully defends criminal charges on a ground of insanity, the consequences vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Usually, the defendant is committed to a mental institution. On the average, a defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a mental institution is confined for twice as long as is a defendant who is found guilty and sent to prison. Very few acquitted insanity defendants are given supervised release, and even fewer are released directly following their verdict. The detention of an insanity acquittee is limited by law. The acquittee must be allowed periodic review in the mental institution, to determine whether continued treatment is necessary.

In addition, a hospital facility may not hold an insanity acquittee indefinitely merely because the acquittee has an antisocial personality Foucha v. Louisiana , U. The procedural framework in Massachusetts illustrates the consequences that come with the insanity defense. Under chapter , section 16, of the Massachusetts General Laws Annotated, the court may order a person found not guilty by reason of insanity an insanity acquittee to be hospitalized for 40 days for observation and examination. During this period, the district attorney or the superintendent of the mental hospital may petition the court to have the insanity acquittee committed to the hospital.

If the judge orders the commitment, the acquittee is placed in the hospital for six months. After the first six months have expired, the commitment is reviewed again, and then once a year thereafter. If the superintendent of the mental health facility moves to discharge the acquittee, the district attorney must respond with any objections within 30 days of notice from the superintendent.

The mental health facility is authorized to restrict the movement of criminal defendants and insanity acquittees, so a commitment is tantamount to incarceration. When Pleading insanity, a defendant might not want to present the best possible image at trial. In Riggins v. Nevada , U. After being taken into custody, Riggins complained that he was hearing voices in his head and that he was having trouble sleeping.

A psychiatrist at the jail prescribed milligrams per day of Mellaril, an antipsychotic drug. By the time of trial, the psychiatrist was prescribing milligrams per day of Mellaril. Just before trial, Riggins's attorney moved the court to suspend administration of the Mellaril. Riggins was pleading not guilty by reason of insanity, and his attorney wanted the jury to see Riggins in his natural state. According to one psychiatrist, Dr. Jack Jurasky, Riggins "would most likely regress to a manifest psychosis and become extremely difficult to manage" if he were taken off Mellaril. The court denied the motion, and Riggins was convicted and sentenced to death. The Nevada Supreme Court affirmed Riggins's convictions and death sentence.

On appeal to the U. Supreme Court, the convictions were reversed. According to the high court, Nevada had violated Riggins's due process rights under the Sixth and Fourteenth Amendments. In the absence of evidence that the treatment was medically appropriate and essential for Riggins's own safety or the safety of others, and without an exploration of less intrusive alternatives, the trial court had erred by denying Riggins's liberty interest in freedom from antipsychotic drugs. According to the Court, the administration of the Mellaril jeopardized a number of Riggins's trial rights. Not only was it possible that the Mellaril had affected Riggins's outward appearance, and thus his defense, but the high daily dosage of Mellaril also might have affected Riggins's testimony, his ability to communicate with his attorney, and his ability to follow the proceedings.

Although the defense had been allowed to present expert testimony on the nature of Riggins's mental condition, the Court concluded that the compromise of Riggins's trial rights was reversible error. Victims of abuse often allege temporary insanity in defending their own violent behavior. For example, in , Virginia resident Lorena Bobbitt, charged with severing her husband's penis with a knife, was acquitted of assault charges on the ground of temporary insanity. At trial, Bobbitt testified that her husband had abused her physically and emotionally.

Critics complain that the insanity defense is abused by defense attorneys, who use it to free the perpetrators of deliberate criminal acts. However, 95 percent of all persons found not guilty by reason of insanity are detained in hospitals, and in practice, the insanity defense is rarely invoked and rarely successful. The insanity defense is used by defendants in only one percent of all felony cases, and it results in acquittal in only one-quarter of those cases. When most people hear about the insanity defense, they automatically assume that it can be used applied to people commonly referred to as psychopaths and sociopaths.

While traditionally there has been a small degree of difference between these two classifications, the American Psychiatric Associations most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual—Fourth Edition "DSMIV" groups sociopathy and psychopathy under the heading "antisocial personality disorder. According to the DSM-IV, antisocial personality disorder is characterized by pervasive pattern of disregard for, and violation of, the rights of others occurring since age 18, as indicated by three or more of the following: 1 failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest; 2 deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure; 3 impulsivity or failure to plan ahead; 4 irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults; 5 reckless disregard for safety of self or others; 6 consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or to honor financial obligations; 7 lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to, or rationalizing, having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.

However it is defined, many in the legal community doubt whether the insanity defense covers this kind of behavior at all. The ALI's Model Penal Code test of insanity states that "the terms mental disease or defect do not include an abnormality that is manifested only by repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct. Thus, sociopaths and psychopaths, while perceived as insane by most people, could likely not use the insanity defense as a defense in a court of law.

For this reason, most celebrated serial killers such as John Wayne Gacy and Ted Bundy, as well as persons whose mental stability seems to be of a questionable nature, such as Ted Kaczynski, have seen their insanity pleas fail or have never used the defense. In fact, in recent years, only Hinckley and Bobbitt are among celebrated cases who have used the defense successfully. For criminals with antisocial personality disorder, the insanity plea simply does not apply.

American Psychiatric Association. Washington D. Bing, Jonathan L. Campbell, Emily. Ellickson, Robert C. Giorgi-Guarnieri, Deborah, et. Kuby, Ronald L. LaFond, John Q. New York: Oxford Univ. Melville, John D. Morse, Stephen J. Rogers, Richard, and and Daniel Shuman. Conducting Insanity Evaluations. New York: Guilford Press. Semrau, Stanley, and Judy Gale. Toronto, Tonawanda, N. See: insanity , temporary insanity.

Insanity Defense A defense asserted by an accused in a criminal prosecution to avoid liability for the commission of a crime because, at the time of the crime, the person did not appreciate the nature or quality or wrongfulness of the acts. History "Complete madness" was first established as a defense to criminal charges by the common-law courts in late-thirteenth-century England. Under the M'Naghten rule, insanity was a defense if at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from a disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.

I s T here a N eed for the I nsanity D efense? Consequences When a party successfully defends criminal charges on a ground of insanity, the consequences vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Defendants' Rights When Pleading insanity, a defendant might not want to present the best possible image at trial. Uses and Abuses Victims of abuse often allege temporary insanity in defending their own violent behavior. Psychopaths and Sociopaths When most people hear about the insanity defense, they automatically assume that it can be used applied to people commonly referred to as psychopaths and sociopaths.

Further readings American Psychiatric Association. Cross-references M'naghten Rule. West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved. Hill and Kathleen T. All Right reserved. Mentioned in? References in periodicals archive? Haywood, who is now the Arlington County Public Defender, declined to invoke a formal insanity defense before trial, instead announcing an involuntary intoxication defense. No intoxication defense outside of insanity'.

Analogously, the narrow inquiry into the time of the crime applies not only to the insanity defense but also to the assessment of mens rea in the context of mental illness. Next it walks through the basics of the insanity defense as contained in RCM k to include key terms from the psychiatry field. Part I unpacks attitudes toward the insanity defense and its influence on the treatment of insanity acquittees. The Psychiatric Security Review Board was established in to supervise people who successfully assert an insanity defense to a criminal charge.

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