Insanity Defense Essay

1469 Words 6 Pages
"Insanity is defined as a mental disorder of such severity as to render its victim incapable of managing his affairs or conforming to social standards." (Insanity, pg. 1) It is used in court to state that the defendant was not aware of what he/she was doing at the time of the crime, due to mental illnesses. But insanity is a legal, not a medical, definition. There is a difference between mental illness and going insane. Many problems are raised by the existence of the insanity defense. For example, determining the patient's true mental illness (whether they are faking or not), placement of the mentally ill after trial, the credibility of the psychological experts, the percentage of cases that are actually successful, …show more content…
This rule focuses on cognition, which alone is not enough to determine whether someone is mentally disabled. The M'Naghten rule remained the definition of the insanity defense up until 1954.
When the Durham case arose the insanity test was changed. Judge David Baezelon stated that, "an accused is not criminally responsible if his unlawful act was the product of mental disease or mental defect." (Mental Health Law and the US Judicial System, pg 4) This was the foundation for the new insanity test. Baezelon worked with psychologists and psychiatrists in developing the new test and in 1962 the "Durham Rule" was founded. It was said to be better than the M'Naghten rule in that it included both cognition and volitional impairment. The M'Naghten rule didn't include volitional impairment, which is an irresistible impulse while cognition impairment is not understanding the quality of the act. The federal courts eventually rejected the Durham rule because its definition was too broad. Alcoholics, compulsive gamblers and drug addicts had successfully used the defense to defeat a wide variety of crimes.
In 1972, the American Law Institute (a panel of legal experts) developed a new rule for insanity as part of the Model Penal Code. This rule says that a defendant is not responsible
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