Criminal Law And The Insanity Defense

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Criminal law the insanity defense Introduction In the United States, one of the defenses available to criminal defendants in most states is not guilty by reason of insanity. The availability of that defense is subject to state law, ever since a 1994 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the decision of individual states to abolish that defense (Martin, 1998; Schmalleger, 2009, p. 146). In principle, there is a logical or fundamental ethical basis for the philosophy of allowing those defendants who are insane to escape the same kind (or degree) of punishment normally imposed on individuals whose guilt is established after adjudication in criminal court. The underlying concept is simply that a person who is incapable of understanding why his actions are wrong cannot (or should not) be punished for those actions the same way that a person who fully understands why his actions are wrong deserves to be punished. For the same reason, children are not prosecuted for acts that would be considered criminal if committed by an adult, precisely because children are incapable of appreciating the wrongfulness of their actions (Freidman, 2005, p. 450). Philosophical Basis of the Insanity Defense The specific philosophical justification for the insanity defense goes to the underlying notions and distinction between what the law has traditionally referred to as actus reus (Latin for "guilty act) and mens rea (Latin for "guilty mind), in that the very notion of

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