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Insanity Defense Paper

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Insanity Defense Paper
Team B
June 1, 2015
David Harper

Insanity Defense Paper
Mr. Stu Dents is charged with the murder of his girlfriend and a legal team has been chosen to represent him. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Dents was witnessed by police yelling such things as “Alien” and “I am God, let me go! I am God!” Now facing not only homicide but several other criminal charges such as burglary, assault on police, and kidnapping, Mr. Dents has made the choice to plead insanity. However, the question remains as to whether or not there is enough for an insanity defense. Should Mr. Dents stand trial? What are the state requirements for an insanity defense? What steps must be taken to prove insanity?
Mr. Dents’ defense team needs to decide if he should stand trial or not. Based on his arrest information a reasonable person would believe Mr. Dents to suffer from some sort of mental illness. However, when deciding if a defendant should stand trial or not the decision is not based on their mindset during the crime or the arrest. The decision is based on the mental state of the defendant at the start of trial. According to Criminal Law Today, “a person is competent to stand trial if he or she, at the time of trial, has sufficient present ability to consult with his or her lawyer with a reasonable degree of understanding and a rational as well as factual understanding of the proceedings” (Schmalleger, Hall, & Dolatowski, 2014). Mr. Dents has already consulted with his defense team and had the mental ability to request an insanity defense. His request for the insanity defense shows that he understands the charges that he is facing as well as the proceedings. It is the opinion of the defense team that he is competent to stand trial and should do so.

Insanity Defense
However, evidence showed that Mr. Dents does have signs of mental issues, because, not only did he assault one of the arresting officers, he also was extremely agitated and witnessed yelling “Aliens”, and that he was God. In addition, prior to the murder, Mr. Dents’ personal journal writings and multiple pictures of the victim portray mental instability. The defense attorney would like to bring psychologist specialties for examination evidence and to further evaluate the defendant to ensure that the decision on pleading insanity would stand.
In many different states the requirements of insanity are different. For example, in the states of Florida and Alabama they use the M’Naghten Rule. This rule is sued in “twenty-eight states and recognized by the federal government” (p. 262). The M’Naghten test consists of the suffering of a mental disease in addition to the defendant not knowing the nature and quality of the act as well as the defendant did not know he was doing anything wrong in committing the act. The defendant would have to have mental infirmity, disease, or defect and because of that condition did not have knowledge of what he or she was doing and didn’t know that it was wrong, all while committing the crime. The psychologist specialties, along with any other medical records, could further affirm the defendant’s mental stability, and to see if he would be able to stand trial or not. However, in Alabama mental treatment facilities and programs are limited due to budget cuts in healthcare. Furthermore, many other states, such as Ohio, use the Model Penal Code rule in which allows the admission of evidence that the defendant must provide revealing that they suffer from a mental disease whenever relevant to prove they did or did not have a state of mind that is an element to the offense committed. In every state, the burden of proof is on the defendant to which the defendant is assumed to be sane until otherwise proven. "Thirteen states have adopted the guilty but mentally ill verdict for defendants" (p. 268) Other states, such as Idaho, Montana, Kansas and Utah no longer accept a plea of insanity but allows evidence to show mental illnesses that would result in lack of criminal intent.
Proving Insanity The insanity defense is available for three major reasons. Those reasons are free will, theories of punishment and humanitarianism. Free will cites that the decision to disobey the law resulted from a disability. Theories of punishment are associated with the inability to deter those from committing crimes who cannot distinguish right from wrong in addition to the cruelty of punishment that resulted from a disability. Lastly, humanitarianism shows the need for those who are mentally disabled to be incapacitated in a noncriminal, treatment environment. There are certain steps that need to be attained in order to prove insanity. The insanity plea requires notice of such a defense and subjects the defendant to examinations and psychological testing by health experts. States that observe not guilty by reason of insanity require the defendant to be committed to a mental institution. A civil commitment hearing would also assist in assessment of the defendant’s threat and recognize if a sentence to an institution is necessary. The confirmation tests used in an insanity defense case are the M’Naghten, Irresistible Impulse, Durham Product Test and the American Law Institutes Model Penal Code Standard. “The fundamental difference among these tests is whether the emphasis s place on a defendant’s ability to know right from wrong or whether the stress is placed on a defendant’s ability to control their behavior” (p. 262). These tests focus on various attributes of mental illness and definitions of those mental illnesses contributory to offense committed would be used throughout proceedings in order to provide testimony to guide the jury and assist in providing evidence in relation to the insanity plea.
In conclusion, the defense team for Mr. Stu Dents is certain that a defense of insanity will work for their client. Proving insanity in court is not an easy task as this paper has already shown. However, the team believes that they have enough information to prove his insanity to the jury and are now ready to proceed with trial. Being that he is going to trial, he will not stand a chance not being guilty. He was in good condition when he committed the murder, which means he knew what he was doing. Right is right and wrong is wrong is wrong.

Schmalleger, F., Hall, D. E., & Dolatowski, J. J. (2014). Criminal Law Today (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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