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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 98391 Find in a Library
Title: Crime and Madness - The Origins and Evolution of the Insanity Defense
Author(s): T Maeder
Date Published: 1985
Page Count: 219
Sponsoring Agency: Harper and Row Publishers
Scranton, PA 18512
Sale Source: Harper and Row Publishers
Order Services Dept
Keystone Industrial Park
Scranton, PA 18512
United States of America
Type: Historical Overview
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: The book presents a general historical, theoretical, and ethical analysis of the insanity defense.
Abstract: The history of the insanity defense is traced from its origins in Christian ethics and Roman jurisprudence, through British laws requiring guilty intent, to the McNaughton rule and subsequent case law developments. The McNaughton rule required that defendants be laboring under a defect of reason or disease of the mind which rendered them incapable of knowing the nature and quality or the wrongness of their acts. Subsequent decisions incorporated a volitional, irresistible-impulse test which was difficult to prove and often resulted in opposing psychiatric testimonies. Subsequent tests of the insanity defense have included the Durham test, the Durham-McDonald Test, and the American Law Institute's Model Penal Code test. The confluence of a number of factors in the 1960's and 1970's, including attention to patient's rights and changes in statutes regarding committment of the mentally ill, contributed to moves to reform the insanity defense. Many States opted for a guilty-but-mentally-ill verdict. Others have called for abolition of the insanity defense. However, the question of responsibility lies at the very heart of the criminal justice system. It is concluded that the insanity defense should be retained because it permits forgiveness where there is no blame. However, the defendant in such cases cannot be naively absolved of all responsibility. While the defendant may be relieved of criminal responsibility and legal guilt, there is a moral and practical duty that society's compassion is not rewarded by further harm. Source notes and an index are provided.
Index Term(s): Civil commitment; Criminal responsibility; Guilty but mentally ill; History of criminal justice; Insanity defense; Judicial decisions; Mentally ill offenders; Policy analysis; Psychiatric testimony
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