How The Insanity Defense Is Used And Controlled Within The Legal System

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There is a defense within the legal system that has stirred up controversy for decades and that is how the insanity defense is used and controlled within the legal system. Some argue that the legal definition needs to be revamped and others argue that it simply can’t be proven legally without jeopardizing the integrity of the legal system. The criteria that has to be met in order to successfully negotiate this type of plea has been studied from as early as the 1880’s when Charles Julius Guiteau, a well-known attorney shot and killed President Garfield (Charles, 2014). He claimed that he was legally insane at the time of the shooting and used this as his defense, but medically he was a normal functioning person. While his defense did not…show more content…
As with Guiteau they may be a healthy normal acting individual, but any past mental history, substance abuse or disease of the mind may have deterred them from their cognitive ability of knowing right from wrong. The only way legally to prosecute them is to test their cognitive ability. There are many tests that had been created to help make that determination along with psychiatrists and other medical professionals that could legally explain if a person was indeed insane at the time a crime had been committed. Some of the tests included the wild beast test, delusional test, right and wrong test and the irresistible impulse test (Johnson, 1992). However, the most popular test that has become the standard go to when evaluating a person’s cognitive ability is the M 'Naghten test (Borum & Fulero, 1999). The reason that this test has become so popular is because it focuses on one thing and that is a person’s ability to understand right and wrong at the time a crime had been committed. The test, when done successfully, tests a person’s cognitive process in determining if they understand what they have done and the consequences for their actions when they committed the crime. Many have argued that a crime is a crime and should be punished equally. However, there are those who feel help should be given to those who have a mental disorder or disease of the mind when they have committed a criminal act instead of punishment. The philosophy
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