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Should The Insanity Defense Be Abolished Essay Contest

  • Criminals are still criminals no matter their mental state

    Criminals, "insane" or not, still committed the crime at the end of the day and deserve punishment. After all, insanity, among many other concepts used in court, is completely subjective. What defines and constitutes insanity? Some say demons are in the insane, which I view as idiotic, considering my ties to atheism.

  • It's an excuse.

    Many criminals are said to have planned out their killings , so how is it that they are unaware of what they are doing. Andrea Yates planned it out, the colorado shooting was planned out , and a lot more? Plus it is said that the insanity defense is sexist. Anytime a woman commits a crime and is said to be "out of their regular state of mind" they are crazy. So yes, it should be abolished.

  • The justice system is a farce.

    If we tell people that murder is wrong there is no equivocation regarding the matter. The person's perception of what they were doing at the time is immaterial. Why does this society and it's government insist on cultivating the wicked and demonizing the downtrodden and the encumbered. We are decaying from within as a society and our compassion is being used to bludgeon us. To echo the lamentations of the poster above, the fact that defense psychiatrists never determine in favor of sanity is irrevocable proof that we have allowed pedancy and the inability of people in the psychiatric profession to identify with the pain of the victims, only the patient. Broad psychological spectrums notwithstanding, when the laws of our society allow penalties as severe as 25years to life for stealing a slice of pizza because of third strike laws, the possibility that someone who shot 82 people killing 12 of them including a 6 year old girl
    could eventually go free, is a thought that that causes many late nights.

  • Insanity plea is invalid

    Criminals, "insane" or not, still committed the crime at the end of the day and deserve punishment. After all, insanity, among many other concepts used in court, is completely subjective. What defines and constitutes insanity? Some say demons are in the insane, which I view as idiotic, considering my ties to atheism.

  • The criminally insane are still criminal.

    The insanity defense serves to excuse crime. When crime is excused, it is easier for criminals to get away with what their crimes. In the article "The insanity of the Insanity defense", by Carol A. Valentine, it is argued by Edwin Meese III that :
    "If we are really sincere about the protection of the public, the mental condition of the individual at the time he committed the crime is immaterial. A good portion of criminal trials is taken up with hot and cold psychiatrists running in and out for both sides telling what is wrong with the accused. The way psychiatrists are now pushed and tugged … in order to provide testimony for one side or the other is a disgrace to their profession."(http://public-action.Com/Just-Us/tioid.Html).
    In that same article, Jeffrey Harris argues "What amazes me is that in any trial I've ever heard of, the defense psychiatrist always says the accused is insane, and the prosecution psychiatrist always says he's sane. This happened invariably, in 100 per cent of the cases, thus far exceeding the laws of chance." (http://public-action.Com/Just-Us/tioid.Html). According to them, the insanity defense can be manipulated by either side of the case to serve there ends. Seems kind of biased doesn't it? This is especially true for the defense. One recurring reason the insanity defense is brought into play is for the legal defense to protect the accused when they don't have anything else.
    It is also arguable that those with the capacity to commit crimes are capable of distinguishing the severity and immorality of them. For instance, did James Holmes really have "no criminal intent", when he spent months planning the shooting, loaded his apartment with bombs, disguised himself, then went on a shooting spree in a Colorado movie theater? According to MSN, he even researched insanity defense on his computer. I know that Holmes doesn't represent all criminal cases, but it does prove that many "insane" criminals are aware of what they do, they just don't care who they hurt. Tolerating and excusing these atrocities only makes recurrence of them easier for the perpetrators to avoid justice; which in itself is an injustice to the victims, to society, and to the law.

  • Anyone who commits/attempts mass murder is insane

    Of course your insane if you walk into a theater and start shooting.
    Should it prevent you from being found guilty/ not, No way!
    Maybe someone with severe brain trauma, down syndrome, severely autistic disorders could use that as a defense.
    Whats insane is that were giving these murders a loop hole to slip through.

  • All the Same

    The fact is if someone commits a crime, they deserve the same punishment as anyone else, "sane or not". If someone commits a crime such as homicide, they are dangerous, "sane or not" and can not live among society. If you commit a crime such as these, your crazy anyway.

  • Criminals are still criminals no matter what their mental state.

    Insane people should not have an "excuse" to not go to jail. They need to be in jail and be punished just as a normal person. Being released back out into the public is dangerous for the people around them. Think about Andrew Goldstein. He was in and out of a mental hospital for seven years. Two weeks after being out he pushed a woman in front of an oncoming subway train and killed her. His insanity defense was rejected by the second jury and is in jail for 25 years to life. It is so much safer for "insane" criminals to be locked up.

  • So if you are "insane" you're not responsible, but then WHO IS?

    Would you rather live next door to a "sane" person who gets pleasure from raping & murdering people or to an "insane" person who gets pleasure raping & murdering?
    There's no difference. And like the above said if the law is really to protect the public it wouldn't matter. How can anyone who commits any horrible act on another person actually not be "insane" when you consider that it's not "normal" to want to hurt other people in the first place. Insanity plea is absurd if you just think about it.

  • Criminals are still criminals no matter their mental state

    Criminals, "insane" or not, still committed the crime at the end of the day and deserve punishment. After all, insanity, among many other concepts used in court, is completely subjective. What defines and constitutes insanity? Some say demons are in the insane, which I view as idiotic, considering my ties to atheism.

  • Mr. Crumpley's lawyer had asserted, ''This defendant is crazy, as nuts as they come.'' One defense psychiatrist said that Mr. Crumpley believed ''demons in the guise of homosexuals'' were stalking him'' and that ''he was merely protecting the nation and himself by attacking them.''

    Mr. Crumpley now faces 30 days of mental tests, at the conclusion of which the trial judge will rule on whether Mr. Crumpley should be confined to a maximum-security mental institution for at least six months or a ''civil'' hospital, where his stay would be determined in a court proceeding. The Background

    Criminal law in most civilized societies has accorded special treatment to people whose behavior appeared to be the result of certain mental disorders. The modern American system of justice has made insanity a basis both for acquittal of criminal responsibility and for involuntary civil commitment to mental institutions, in which conditions are often similar to those in prisons.

    Most of those who advocate abolishing the insanity defense do not propose to treat all defendants determined to be insane as ordinary criminals, however.

    Under the Hatch bill, according to its author, ''an individual suffering from delusions, who believed that he was throwing darts at a board instead of stabbing a victim to death, would not be guilty of murder'' because he did not kill intentionally. In such a case. a defendant's insanity would be considered so extreme as to negate the element of intent, which the prosecution must establish in order to convict anyone of a serious crime.

    But insanity would not constitute a separate defense for defendants who intentionally committed crimes, even if psychiatrists said they were unable to control their actions because of their mental condition. Would Reverse 130 Years of Law

    This proposal to limit evidence of mental illness to the issue of intent would reverse more than 130 years of common law development, during which the legal definition of insanity has gradually expanded to encompass defendants who did not know that their actions were wrong or could not control what they did, as well as those who did not know what they were doing.

    Despite this expansion of the insanity defense, and the public attention and concern aroused by the frequency with which it has been raised in sensational cases, most experts agree that its significance has been more symbolic and theoretical than practical, at least until the last few years.

    Most insane criminal defendants never reach the point of invoking that defense because they are found ''incompetent'' to stand trial - that is, incapable of understanding the proceedings against them and assisting in their own defense. The insanity defense has been invoked in only a small minority of all criminal cases, and has been successful in only a minuscule number.

    But some studies report a dramatic increase in recent years in the number of cases in which such a defense has used successfully. Dr. Alan Stone, professor of law and psychiatry at Harvard Law School, says that instead of being confined for long periods, ''people are getting out'' of mental institutions within a few years or even months of being found incompetent to stand trial, or acquitted of murder by reason of insanity.

    One reason, he said, is that the courts, in generally extending greater civil liberties to mentally disabled persons, have made it more difficult to keep those defendants in mental hospitals, or even, in some cases, to have them committed. Another, he said, is that the ''treatment orientation'' of many psychiatrists is now ''to return people to the community as soon as possible.'' In a number of highly publicized cases in recent years, such people have been pronounced cured and released, only to be arrested for another murder. For Abolishing Plea

    Advocates of abolishing or restricting the insanity defense offer contrasting reasons for making changes. Some, including Mr. Meese and Senator Hatch, view the abolition of the insanity defense primarily as a means of fighting violent crime. Mr. Meese said in a speech in April that if the insanity defense were abolished, ''We would do a lot better as far as ridding the streets of some of the most dangerous people that are out there, that are committing a disproportionate number of crimes.''

    Mr. Meese, Mr. Hatch and scholars such as Dr. Stone also deplore the spectacle often presented in trials, where competing teams of psychiatric ''experts,'' paid by the prosecution and defense, contradict one another's diagnoses. ''The psychiatrists who participate are like clowns performing in a three-ring circus,'' Dr.Stone asserts. Little Link to Crime Rate

    Other advocates of abolishing the insanity defense, such as Norval Morris, professor of law and criminology at the University of Chicago, candidly acknowledge that their proposals ''will do nothing to protect the community'' because ''the defense of insanity has very little indeed to do with the crime rate.''

    A more principled reason for abolishing the use of insanity as as a defense, Mr. Morris asserts, is that it sets up a ''false dichotomy'' between those judged insane, and thus not responsible for their crimes, and everybody else.

    ''Why not a defense of 'dwelling in a Negro ghetto'?'' Mr. Morris asks sarcastically. ''Such an adverse social and subcultural background is statistically more criminogenic than is psychosis.'' Against Abolition

    The common theme cited by lawyers, judges and psychiatrists who favor retention of the insanity defense is that abolishing it would undermine one of the most ancient moral foundations of criminal law without reducing the crime rate even marginally.

    ''Our collective conscience does not allow punishment when it cannot impose blame,'' Judge David L. Bazelon of the Federal Appeals Court for the District of Columbia wrote in 1954.

    Alan Dershowitz, a Harvard law professor, asserted in a recent interview: ''We need the insanity defense to tell us why those who commit crimes should be held responsible. It's a very important moral line. To abolish it would be a disaster.''

    Abolition of the insanity defense would also entail ''constitutional problems of unimaginable complexity,'' Prof. Abraham S. Goldstein of Yale Law School told the Attorney General's Task Force on Violent Crime in testimony in May. He cited court decisions suggesting that ''the concept of a culpable state of mind is so intrinsic to our criminal law'' as to be embedded in the Constitution.

    Mr. Dershowitz and Mr. Goldstein also predicted that enactment of the Hatch bill would not eliminate the battle of expert psychiatric witnesses deplored by critics. ''You would have exactly the same swearing contest, you'd just have it over intent rather than insanity,'' Mr. Dershowitz said. The Outlook

    It is difficult to gauge the level of support in Congress for proposals to abolish the insanity defense, because, for all the political and scholarly debate over the years, such proposals have nearly always been given a lower priority than other measures thought likely to have a more immediate effect on crime.

    ''This is a pimple on the nose of justice, but the system of justice has congestive heart failure,'' Dr. Stone observed. But the use of insanity as a defense in the Hinckley case could spark a sharp increase in interest in the proposals, as could new insanity acquittals and subsequent release of defendants in sensational cases.

    If the trend toward release of people from mental hospitals after a short confinement continues, pressure for abolishing the defense is likely to increase. ''The public cannot expect to be protected from violent people by psychiatrists,'' Dr. Stone warns. ''If society wants to be protected from violent people or to punish them, it should lock them up in prisons.''

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