Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Insanity Defense: Related Issues

Academic journal article Indian Journal of Psychiatry

The Insanity Defense: Related Issues

Article excerpt

Byline: T. Asokan

For the past 150 years, there is no change in the understanding and knowledge other than autonomy and capacity to choose the right and wrong for criminal liability. The alternative concept that human behavior is the result of an interaction between biological and environmental factors other than free choice failed to impress the criminal justice system because of a direct threat to a society's deep seated need to blame someone than themselves for criminal harms that occur. The insanity defense has a long history, and is evolved after many tests that have been tried and tested. McNaughton's rules stressed on "understandability of right and wrong" and "intellectual" rather than a moral or affective definition dominated in its formulation. Lack of control and irresistible drives or impulses were neglected Going by the current understanding of neurological evidences of compulsion and lack of impulse control, rationality tests without the inclusion of lack of control, seem to be outdated. Separate "Control determination" than the "Rationality determination" by the jurors may improve the accuracy of Juror's categorizations. There is a suggestion that Relevance ratio is ideal for 'Evidentiary relevance" and there should be a quality control on expert testimonies. With progress in neuroscience, the law may need to abandon or alter some of its current assumptions about the nature of voluntary conduct, which underlies various defenses

The concept of defense by insanity has existed since ancient Greece and Rome. The first known recognition of insanity as a defense to criminal charges was recorded in a 1581 English legal treatise stating that, "If a madman or a natural fool, or a lunatic in the time of his lunacy" kills someone, they cannot be held accountable. The British courts came up with the "wild beast" test in the 18 [sup]th Century, in which defendants were not to be convicted if they understood the crime no better than "an infant, a brute, or a wild beast."

Criminal liability requires proof of three interrelated components as follows:

*Commission of the prohibited conduct specified in the offense (Actus Reus) *Committed with a particular mental state (Mens Rea) *Committed without a legal defense.

For the past 150 years, there is no change in the understanding and knowledge other than autonomy and capacity to choose the right and wrong for criminal liability. The alternative concept that human behavior is the result of an interaction between biological and environmental factors other than free choice failed to impress the criminal justice system because of a direct threat to a society's deep seated need to blame someone than themselves for criminal harms that occur. [sup][1],[2]

Law's denunciatory and punitive response to a person who is guilty of crime is known as sentence. Individual blameworthiness is often considered, and external circumstances are viewed as mitigating factors while awarding punishment. [sup][3]

DEFENSES

A defense is a plea which is successfully raised will lead to acquittal on criminal charge.

Types of defenses

Failure of proof defenses

Defenses that fail to prove all the central components of Criminal liability.

Exculpatory defenses

*Applying force to another person in self-defense *Actions of insane person.

Nonexculpatory defenses

Diplomatic immunity and statutory time limitations on persecuting the crime.

Exculpatory defenses are further divided into:

*Justifications *Excuses.

Justifications render conduct lawful and so may not be construed as crime. Excuses render the actor's otherwise unlawful conduct not deserving punishment.

Justifications focus on the "legality of the act" and Excuses focus on "blameworthiness of the actor". [sup][4]

The above concepts are not "airtight compartments" and in some legal milieu (Russia) such subdivisions of exculpatory defenses are not existing. …

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