Abolishing The Insanity Defense English Essay

1270 words - 6 pages

Running Head: INSANITY DEFENSE 1
ABOLISHING THE INSANITY DEFENSE 7
Abolishing the Insanity Defense
Angela A. Butler
Averett University
ENG111-101-AUSP19
Dr. Kim McMurtry
Abolishing the Insanity Defense
Movies and media have sensationalized the “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) defense. Some feel the insanity defense is a surefire ticket to get out of jail free after committing unlawful acts. However, the insanity defense is seldom used and rarely granted. Why then, is the insanity defense so controversial?
Andrea Yates, who murdered her five children by drowning them, was convicted on two counts of capital murder, which were later overturned. The jury found her NGRI. Rather than serving life in prison or the death penalty, Yates was admitted to a mental hospital where she resides today (2018). The jury determined Yates actions were due to the psychiatric drugs she was taking to treat a major depressive disorder.
In another case, former University of Texas student Kendrex White, was found NGRI after killing one and injuring three other students. His defense attorney convinced the prosecutors that White met the state’s definition of insanity (2018). It was agreed that White suffered from a mental illness so severe he couldn’t understand the difference between right and wrong. White ended up being restrained in a mental hospital rather than prison (Autullo & Autullo, 2018).
Notorious trials like these force us to reevaluate the use of the insanity defense. Experts have yet to determine whether or not it is possible to objectively prove a person can be found NGRI. What symptoms must a person exhibit to be insane? How can an “insane” person recall past events or emotions in a trial months or years later? Medical and legal experts have varying opinions on how to define insanity or mental illness. The media tends to sensationalize the insanity defense in television and movies, though many people truly understand the defensive plea. Hence, I feel the insanity defense should be abolished, as it is often misinterpreted and easily abused in criminal cases.
The insanity defense refers to a defense that a defendant can plead in a criminal trial. In an insanity defense, the defendant admits the action, but asserts a lack of culpability based on a mental illness. This defense is legally “classified as an excuse defense, rather than a justification defense (Staff, 2018). The insanity defense as evolved through reformation over the past 150+ years. Initially considered a pardon or way to mitigate receiving a guilty verdict, it has evolved to an argument for a defendant to be found NGRI. Under the M’Naghten Rule, the oldest rule that originated from England in the 1800s, a person is NGRI if, at the time the person committed the criminal act, the defendant was so deranged they did not know the nature or quality of their actions, and they couldn’t determine the...

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