Who Determines Whether a Defendant Was Legally Insane

With the exception of alibis and the expiry of the limitation period, Chapter 5 “Criminal Defence, Part 1” deals with the defence of justification. This chapter deals with criminal defence based on apology, including defence against mental illness. Remember that apology-based defences focus on the accused and argue that the accused should be exempt from criminal responsibility for his or her conduct in the circumstances. The defense is based on assessments by forensic psychiatrists with the appropriate test according to the jurisdiction. Their testimony presides over the jury, but they are not allowed to testify about the criminal responsibility of the accused, because it is up to the jury to decide. Similarly, psychiatrists are prevented from passing judgment on the “ultimate question” – whether the accused is insane. [6] However, problems soon arose and the Durham Test fell out of favor. First, the test was often successful and deprived the jury of its decision-making role. The determination of insanity was left to the discretionary decisions of trained professionals, who were largely free in their methodological approach. The lack of a clear definition of key terms such as “mental illness or mental disability” exacerbated this problem and led to inconsistencies, as different professionals came to different conclusions.

In addition, the test proved to be too inclusive. Under the “product” approach, defendants could not be convicted of mental illness, even if they understood and controlled their actions at the time of the offence. For these individuals, punishment may be more appropriate, as its deterrent effect remains intact. Therefore, the same continuous circuit that introduced the test in 1954 rejected the test in 1972 when it decided the Brawner case. New Hampshire is now the only jurisdiction that uses a test similar to Durham`s rule. Originally, most states required that if an accused raised a defence of mental illness, the prosecutor must prove beyond a doubt that the defendant did not have mental illness. In 1982, however, John W. Hinckley was acquitted of the charge of attempting to assassinate President Ronald Reagan on the basis of a senseless defense, and this result prompted many states to reform their senseless laws. Many States have shifted the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the defence, requiring defence lawyers to demonstrate that the accused was mentally ill by clear and convincing evidence, or by a preponderance of evidence.

In Idaho, Kansas, Montana and Utah, the defense of madness has been completely eliminated. Instead, defendants can be convicted “but mentally ill” and sentenced to psychiatric institutions instead of prison. Many defendants suffer from mental illness and may present evidence of this illness, such as psychiatric or secular testimony. Often, a mental disorder manifests itself in the behaviour of the accused in the given circumstances. However, legal insanity is different from medical insanity and is usually much harder to detect. The reason for creating a different standard of legal insanity is the purpose of the prosecution, which is discussed in Chapter 1 “Introduction to Criminal Law.” Prosecutions should both deter and neutralize. While the purpose of a medical diagnosis is to eventually cure the defendant`s disorder, the purpose of the criminal law is to punish the defendant. Thus, the conduct of the accused is not excused if the accused or the company can benefit from punishment. Other states hold a hearing on reason after the verdict or not guilty verdict for mental illness. If the accused is found to be mentally competent at trial, he is released. If the defendant is found mentally ill at the hearing, they will be placed in the appropriate treatment facility (Ohio Rev. Code Ann., 2010).

Jurisdiction refers to an accused`s ability to understand the allegations, while insanity refers to the defendant`s mental state at the time of the crime. Your defense will rely on evidence proving that you – the accused – were “insane” when the alleged crime occurred. A successful defence against mental illness means that you are not criminally responsible for breaking the law. In the United States, a trial in which the defence of mental illness is invoked usually involves the testimony of psychiatrists or psychologists acting as experts on the mental state of the accused at the time of the offence. The M`Naghten Rules of 1843 were not a codification or definition of insanity, but the answers of a panel of judges to hypothetical questions posed by Parliament after the acquittal of Daniel M`Naghten for the murder of Edward Drummond, whom he confused with British Prime Minister Robert Peel. The rules define the defence as follows: “At the time of committing the act, the accused was working with such a lack of reason, mental illness, that she did not know the manner and quality of the act she was doing, or did not know that what she was doing was wrong.” [12] The bottom line is that the accused was unable to assess the nature of his actions at the time of the commission of the crime. The American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law estimates that competency assessments in the United States are about 50,000 to 60,000 per year. Determining whether a defendant meets the competency criteria for trial capacity has become a core competency in the field of forensic psychology. An important procedural consequence of the mental illness defence is the determination of legal competence, also known as legal capacity.

In accordance with due process requirements, an accused cannot be brought to justice if he or she is considered legally incapable. As the Supreme Court clarified in Dusky, a defendant is incompetent if he or she is unable to communicate rationally with counsel or to rationally understand the nature of the proceedings against him. A defendant may request a hearing at any time to determine jurisdiction, which includes the presentation of evidence and some form of psychological assessment. The threshold for determining jurisdiction is often considered notoriously low. As long as an accused is found to be incompetent, the defence becomes controversial for mental illness because the defendant cannot stand trial. Although the defence known as “diminished capacity” somewhat resembles the “foundation of the mind” defence (since both examine the mental competence of the accused), there are significant differences between them. While the “cause of insanity” is a full defense of a crime – that is, plea of “cause of insanity” is equivalent to pleading “not guilty” – “diminished capacity” is only a plea for a lesser crime. The reduced capacity defence can be used to deny the element of intent to commit a crime. Currently, states rely on four different tests to determine whether a defendant is legally mentally ill. Your state`s laws determine which of these four tests applies.

For federal crimes, the Hinckley case led to the passage of the Insanity Defense Reform Act, which requires defendants to prove the defense of insanity with clear and convincing evidence. Some U.S. states began banning the use of the senseless defense, and in 1994 the Supreme Court rejected a petition for certiorari seeking a review of a Montana Supreme Court case that upheld Montana`s abolition of the defense. [58] Idaho, Kansas, and Utah also banned the defense.