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Stop The Insanity Argumentative Essay Research

Stop The Insanity (Argumentative) Essay, Research Paper

Stop the Insanity

Loop-holes have always been an important part of defense in the court of law. This has played a promising and somewhat reliable source for the accused. It is unfortunate that these loop-holes have accounted for many acquittals and hung juries. Among the variety of loop-holes used in the courts, the most common is the insanity defense. This term refers to “… a plea that defendants are not guilty because they lacked the mental capacity to realize that they committed a wrong or appreciate why it was wrong” (Martin 1). However, it does not stop here. The insanity plea opens up other obscure defenses such as temporary insanity; thus, leaving the defendant with a wide-range of excuses to prove in every effort that he or she is right. It is clear that the insanity plea should be taken away from the rights of the accused. First of all, this defense allows anyone in their right mind to plead insane. Secondly, there is no hope for the judge or the jury to make a truly right decision concerning the intentions of the defendant. Lastly, the accused that find out the insanity defense has become promising and are acquitted for their wrong doings are sent to mental institutions for a short period of time, then released into the community to commit the same crime again.

The most important problem with the insanity defense is that anyone can plead insane. Sure, one has to be deemed insane by a professional psychiatrist, but there is no specific guideline in saying who is insane and who is not. For years the (APA) American Psychiatric Association has tried to tighten the guidelines of this mental confusion concerning court trials. However, by the great amount of grief and pressure inflicted on a defendant, it would be easy to convince oneself to be insane. And as Forensic Psychiatrist, Jonas Rapperport said, “When you’ve got no better defense, that’s the way to go”(Martin 3). Even more, some defendants use the insanity plea just to receive a less severe punishment for the crimes they have committed. Cristina Gutierrez, a Baltimore defense attorney has studied a dozen such cases and states, “… some defendants misuse it, effectively faking insanity to win acquittals or less severe convictions. And often the trials involving the insanity plea get the most attention because they are crimes that are bizarre within themselves” (Martin 2 ). Most people would say, “well, just toughen the standards.” In fact, this does happen. The standard for the insanity plea gets a periodic review, especially after a verdict the public finds shocking. After the Hinkley ruling, Congress and some states, including Maryland, passed laws designed to toughen the standards in the insanity defense. The change was, instead of requiring the prosecutor to prove a defendant’s sanity, the defense attorney now has to persuade the judge or jury that their client is insane. However, if Congress keeps toughening the standards, there should not be any verdicts that the public finds shocking. And they occur more and more every day.

In determining if a defendant is guilty or not, it is merely impossible for the judge or the jury to make an accurate assumption of the defendants’ intentions. Cases like these are practically a toss-up when revealing a verdict. An article from the Washington Post summed it up when they stated that “A jury rejected Jack Ruby’s claim of insanity and sent him to prison for shooting Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President John F. Kennedy. Almost 20 years later, John Hinckley shot President Ronald Reagan – like Oswald, in front of a throng of television cameras – but was declared not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a metal institution” (Martin 3). So when the question is asked, “is the defendant right or wrong in the crime they committed,” who has the right of making that decision without knowing the defendants’ full intentions? Again, an article in the book, Human Events states, “The Menendez brothers killed their parents, but our criminal justice system saw fit not to convict them. Lorena Bobbitt mutilated her husband but, once again, a criminal walked free. The hoodlums who savagely beat truck driver Reginald Denny during the Los Angeles riots escaped full legal consequences of their actions” (Brownfield 1). The list goes on. Year in and year out, hundreds of criminals are released back into the streets because of this so called “insanity” plea.

Finally, the most gruesome fact about the insanity plea is that criminals found not guilty by reason of insanity are committed to a mental hospital for a short time, then are released into our society. When committed to a mental institution, how can doctors be sure that the criminal has been treated properly and will not reoffend. A Milwaukee district attorney involved in Jeffrey Dahmer’s case stated, “The reality is that treatment within the community is just plain not going to work. His track record exhibits that he is very likely to reoffend” (Brownfeild 2). Two years later, Dahmer was arrested for murdering and dismembering more than a dozen young men, including the brother of the boy Dahmer had been charged with molesting in 1989. Another article in the book, Human Events stated, “…anything more than the limited idea of the insanity defense of the past tends to serve the interest of the criminal, not society. It places dangerous individuals back on the street, often to kill again” (Martin 2). In the case of the Long Island road murderer Colin Ferguson, one of his defense attorneys, Ronald Kuby, states, “Nobody is saying that Colin Ferguson did a good thing. We’re not saying he is justified. We’re just saying white racism is to blame” (Brownfield 3). If Ferguson is put back on the streets and kills again, we know who will be responsible, just as we know who is responsible for releasing Jeffery Dahmer. The responsibility rests with the criminal justice system and its increasingly broad use of the “insanity” defense. It is the system itself, that has gone mad. No matter how many crime bills are passed, how many police officers are hired, and jail cells are build, if public continues to let violent criminals escape punishment by claiming ” insanity,” they will remain at their mercy.

One of the few arguments in support of the insanity plea is that a jury has the capability of reaching a correct verdict; thus, reflecting the opinion of the community. Abbe Smith, a Harvard University law professor working on the case of John Salvi states, “This case should serve as a lesson to those who would tinker with a system that doesn’t need fixing. Jurors can think for themselves as to whether a defendant is so mentally ill that he should not be held responsible for his actions” (Coolidge 1). However, the opposition claims that a jury cannot tell if the defendant is insane or not. Dominick Dunne, a lawyer involved in the Menendez case, states, “In the case of the Menendez brothers, they based their child abuse defense on books they read in jail, including a study of how such cases are defended. The only sources for the molestation defense were Erik and Lyle Menendez themselves” (Brownfield 2).

Another argument in support of the insanity plea is that the criminal should have the right to this defense because it establishes a line between right and wrong. Georgetown law professor Heathcote Woolsey Wales, also an expert in the insanity defense, stated, “I think it’s important for the integrity {of the criminal justice system} that you have a mark separating criminal responsibility from nonresponsibility” (Biskupic 3). However, Charles Krautheammer, a professor of law at Yale University, states, “It is absurd to permit the heinousness of a crime to become self-acquitting. That sets up a perverse standard: the more terrible the crime, the crazier, therefore the less culpable the criminal. The man who commits incomprehensible torture is acquitted. The father who steals bread to feed his children is convicted” (Biskupic 2).

How can society cope with this amazing animus in our culture? It is futile to write off the criminals as insane. Most of them know what they’re doing. Even Dahmer had enough sense to hide his deeds: that should be evidence enough of sanity for the law. Furthermore, the mind cannot be diseased or “insane.” In the very creative act, God planned for mankind to rule His early creation and to serve as his representatives on earth. Because the mind goes beyond the physical world, it goes beyond the reaches of science and cannot be medically sick. Since the mind is not a physical organ, it cannot have a disease. While one can have a diseased brain, one cannot have a diseased mind, although he or she may have a sinful or unredeemed mind. After all, mind is mistress of man.

Works Cited

1. Biskupic, Joan. “Court: Insanity Defense Not a Right.” Yahoo. 29 March 1994.

2. Brownfield, Allen C. “Defense Attorneys Mad About Insanity Defense.” EBSCOhost. 3 June 1994.

3. Coolidge, Shelley Donald. “Salvi Case Undergoes Difficulties of Insanity Plea.” EBSCOhost. 20 March 1996.

4. Martin, John P. “The Insanity Defense: A Closer Look.” Yahoo. 27 February 1998.