Comparison and Contrast of Insanity Tests
Comparisonand Contrast of Insanity Tests
Comparisonand Contrast of Insanity Tests
Allcrimes have an option for the defense of insanity. In a conditionwhere the defendant is thought to be insane, the jury is forced tooffer a special verdict referred to as ‘not guilty because ofinsanity.’ The provisions of the judgment are provided under thesection two of the Trial of Lunatics Act 1883 (University ofMinnesota Libraries, 2013). Earlier, the law provided that anindividual who is accused of a serious crime and is found to havemental disorders should have an automatic admission and that therelease of such a person could only be possible through theauthorization of the Home Secretary (University of MinnesotaLibraries, 2013). In the current age, the decision of detaining acriminal who is perceived as insane is at the discretion of the judgeas provided by section five of the Criminal Procedure Act of 1964(Hauer, 1944). Different tests are applied in the determination ofthe state of insanity in an individual during criminal. Such testsinclude the M’Naughten rule test, the irresistible impulse test,and the Durham test. Although the tests might be suitable for theestablishment of the criminal’s mental condition, it is potentiallydangerous to release criminals based on an established state ofinsanity as such criminals are still a threat to the community.
TheComparison and Contrast of the Tests Used to DetermineaCriminal’s State of Insanity
Thetests used by the legal organs in determining the criminal’s stateof insanity share some similarities and differences in their functionand characteristics. The most common insanity defense in the UnitedStates is the M’Naghten rule test, which is also referred to as theright-wrong test (Mackay, 2014). The test is still applicable to datealthough it was created back in 1843. The test is based on cognitiveaspect and relies on the defendant’s level of awareness as opposedto his or her capability to control conduct (University of MinnesotaLibraries, 2013). One of the requirements of the test is that theaccused should have a mental defect during the incidence of crime.The trier of fact should establish that the defendant was unaware ofthe quality and nature of the criminal offense due to mental defect.In this context, there are different ranks of awareness, which can bepossessed by the defendant. The levels of awareness result to avariation in the jurisdictions. The jurisdictions use differentterminologies such as “know” or “understand” whereas othersapply the word “appreciate” (University of Minnesota Libraries,2013). The two forms of jurisdictions are used in different statesand lead to diverse conclusions. In the case where the term ‘know’and ‘understand’ have been used, the defendant must portray afundamental level of awareness. In the case where the word‘appreciate’ is applied, the judge must analyze the emotionalstate of the respondent, and in such a state the personality of theaccused could be relevant and allowable (University of MinnesotaLibraries, 2013). The jurisdictions tend to define the term “wrong”when using this type of insanity defense. Most of the defendants tendto claim that they had no clue of their actions. The test also leadsto the development of the term deific defense where the defendant mayclaim that the criminal act was conducted at the command of God. Insuch a case, the action is termed as “morally wrong.” Thedefendant may be found guilty if there is evidence of an attempt tohide or escape.
Theirresistible impulse insanity acts as a supplement for the M’Naghten.Unlike the M’Naghten test, this type of insanity defense has lostits popularity and is less likely to be applied in most parts ofAmerica (Mackay, 2014). This insanity defense is, however, more easyto prove than the M’Naghten test. Such therefore lead to theacquittal of a larger group of defendants who are more mentallydisturbed (Hauer, 1944). The irresistible impulse insanity defense issimilar to the M’Naghten’s test in the sense that they both focuson cognitive and the will of the accused. The first element of thetest is also similar to that of the M’Naghten’s test in that therespondent must be suffering from a disease of the mind or a mentaldefect. The second element of the examination, however, differs fromthat of the M’Naghten test as it introduces the concept ofvolition. In the case where the defendant fails to control theirmental conduct leading to an act that is considered wrong, thedefendant is excused of their actions (Mackay, 2014). This insanitydefense is deemed to have a softer stance than M’Naghten. In thecase where the test is applied the juror has the challenge ofdetermining whether the conduct could be controlled or not.
Durham’sinsanity defense is also one of the other old tests and was developedin the same period as the M’Naghten’s test. Just like the othertwo tests, Durham’s test suggests that the accused is notcriminally responsible for the unlawful act they commit if the deedwas done under the state of mental disorder (Mackay, 2014). Unlikethe M’Naghten and the irresistible impulse tests, Durham’s testis very hard to apply and was rejected in different court cases inthe United States (Hauer, 1944). The cause of the difficulty ismajorly attributed to the fact that it lacks a proper definition ofmental defects. The test also differs from the others in the sensethat it depends on the principles of proximate causation. Durham’sinsanity defense is similar to the other two tests in the sense thatthe defendant is required to have a mental disease or defect. It,however, fails to focus on the defendant’s individual cognition.
Thethree tests are applied in different circumstances. The effectivenessof their application is often questionable, especially when oneconsiders that criminals of serious crimes are often set free basedon the results of the tests. The jurisdiction for the insane peopleprovides that the mentally disabled person should be absolved fromany unlawful charges and devoid of any record of offense. The lawdoes not, however, provide that the defendant can return freely tothe society. The ruling should provide strict measures for thecriminals who are released based on the insanity defense to ensurethat they do not commit the crime.
Theinsanity defense may be viewed as a dangerous option as it leads tothe release of some ill individuals back to the community. The testshave several similarities. The assessments may also not be accurate,and individuals responsible for some of the fatal crimes could usesuch as loopholes of getting back to their normal lives, henceendangering the security of the people. A consideration of the testsin carrying out verdicts for suspects of crimes such as murderwithout employing other measures is, therefore, inadequate inoffering justice.
Hauer,A. (1944). Insanity – Irresistible Impulse. MarquetteLaw Review,28(1),47-52. Retrieved April 1, 2017, fromhttp://scholarship.law.marquette.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3562&context=mulr
Mackay,R. D. (2014). The Insanity Defence Operation. Retrieved April 02,2017, fromhttp://heinonline.org/HOL/LandingPage?handle=hein.journals%2Fnilq65&div=16&id=&page=
Universityof Minnesota Libraries (2013). Criminal Law. Retrieved April 1, 2017,fromhttps://open.lib.umn.edu/criminallaw/chapter/6-1-the-insanity-defense/
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