Insanity As a Legitimate Defense in the Court of Law

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Is the insanity defense a legitimate defense? The insanity defense is perhaps the most difficult defense for members of the lay public to comprehend. On one hand, when a serial killer commits a string of horrific murders, he or she seems to fit any conceivable definition of being certifiably insane, but not all serial killers are found 'not guilty' by virtue of their insanity. On the other hand, many members of the public think the insanity defense itself is absurd and merely an excuse used by cunning defense attorneys to get their clients reduced jail time, or so the clients spend their confinement in a presumably nicer mental hospital than a prison. The insanity defense originally came into being in England when Daniel M'Naghten, under paranoid delusions, shot and killed the secretary to the prime minister. "Public uproar over M'Naghten being found insane and not guilty led the House of Lords to develop the standard used today, requiring proof that the individual had a mental defect that concealed right from wrong when the law was broken" (Umbright 2006). This principle of the insanity defense was seen when Andrea Yates' conviction for murdering her children was overturned. Yates genuinely believed that she was 'saving' her children by drowning them, thanks to the postpartum depression she was suffering which caused her to have psychotic delusions. She believed she was 'doing right' even though she committed a 'wrong.' Given cases like the Yates trial, however rare

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