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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 97807 Find in a Library
Title: Madness and Guilt
Journal: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology  Volume:17  Issue:4  Dated:(December 1984)  Pages:239-266
Author(s): J Stone
Date Published: 1984
Page Count: 28
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: Australia
Annotation: Repercussions of the insanity defense for British law are discussed in terms of the trial and acquittal of John Hinckley.
Abstract: A discussion of the insanity defense focuses on the wording of the defense, the very fact of the special defense, the posttrial custodial control of the defendant, and the burden of proof in determining insanity. Sociolegal, moral, and philosophical issues associated with the defense are identified. It is noted that disillusion with the law increases when psychiatrists serve as agents of social control, reflecting and reinforcing current values by pronouncing as mentally ill those who deviate from the 'normal.' Questions are raised about whether the concept of criminal responsibility can continue without the criterion for determining whether the accused knew that what he was doing was wrong. Recent proposals linking degrees of sanity with degrees of guilt seem to focus on the shift from the special insanity defense to the general 'mens rea' component. It is concluded that the length of any custodial period for a defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity should not exceed the maximum length of incarceration set for the offense at issue. Any effective reform of the criminal law as to the insanity plea is believed likely to be far more complex than present law and less sentimental and less ambitious than the former predictive-therapeutic approaches of forensic psychiatry. A total of 25 notes are provided.
Index Term(s): Criminal responsibility; Guilty but mentally ill; Insanity defense
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