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Insanity Defense This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.


On November 5, 2009, U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan shot and killed 13 soldiers and civilian police at Ft. Hood, Texas. His attorney said Hasan will probably plead not guilty and that he may use an insanity defense. For the past several centuries, the insanity plea has been an option all criminals have as a defense. The insanity defense is wrong because it may allow criminals to go unpunished, the use of it doesn’t apply to all people due to cost, and it is too difficult to measure sanity.
First, no person, whatever their mental state, should be released after committing a serious crime. In 1843, a Scottish woodcutter named Daniel M’Naughten murdered the secretary to the British prime minister in his attempt to assassinate the prime minister. M’Naughten had gone after the prime minister because he believed the prime minister had caused many of his misfortunes. During his trial, witnesses testified that M’Naughten was insane. M’Naughten was acquitted as he was found “not guilty by reason of insanity.” The M’Naughten rule then came about and said that a person can only be punished for his crimes if he was in his right state of mind. This became the law in American courts and has all too often been abused. Attorneys have been accused of convincing their clients to fake insanity and use the defense so they can confuse the court with complicated psychiatric evaluations. Defendants who are found not guilty due to insanity are still dangerous. The idea of letting an insane murderer loose and freeing him of all charges is not a comforting one in most people’s eyes. In 1981 John Hinckley Jr. made an assassination attempt on Pres. Ronald Regan. He used the insanity defense and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Many Americans criticized the defense because it was shown that Hinckley had planned for the crime and so that should have been proof of his sanity. The defense of insanity let him avoid the consequences of his actions.
The insanity defense is also a defense that not all people can use. Psychiatric examinations and other check-ups are too expensive for many poor people. If a person who doesn’t have as much money has committed a crime and pleads insane, then that person has no way of hiring expert psychiatrists or being able to produce past medical records. The poor person would have a court-appointed psychiatrist perform his exam and most likely wouldn’t get as qualified an opinion as someone with more money could get. Therefore, rich people are able to use the defense more than less fortunate people can. This creates inequality in our legal system.
Finally, it is too difficult to measure sanity. Many people argue that if a person commits a crime, he is not sane or he wouldn’t have committed the crime. Normal, sane people are law-abiding and do not do things that would have negative consequences. Therefore, any person who commits a crime should be found not guilty by reason of insanity. The insanity defense cannot be consistent from one defendant to another as there’s no standard that every person can use to prove whether a person is insane or not. It’s all based on the impression the defendant makes on the jury and what expert testimony is given. What ends up happening is that psychiatrists for both sides in a trial will argue over the issue of insanity and the jury will decide based on who they think argues best. There is no possible way to tell if someone is insane. And, although a person with an actual mental illness who is not able to think correctly may commit a crime, they don’t deserve to be set free. If they are seriously mentally ill, then they should be placed in a mental institution with a proper treatment plan rather than released or simply locked away. Mental health advocates have found that because of the insanity defense, mentally ill people who commit crimes are treated much more harshly than sane people because the public perceives them as being more dangerous. Without a way to measure sanity, the insanity defense is too unreliable and too often abused.
In conclusion, the insanity defense should be done away with. It allows people who commit crimes to be found not guilty of the crime they committed, it creates an unfair legal system as poor people are treated differently than rich people, and it is too difficult to measure sanity. In the recent shooting at Ft. Hood, there is no way Hasan should be able to use the defense of insanity. He gave away his belongings and planned the attack. Many things show he knew exactly what he was doing at the time. To allow the insanity defense in cases like this would be injustice. People need to be held accountable for their actions.




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Roblynn88 said...
Feb. 24, 2013 at 12:45 pm:
Additionally, that is not the definition of the McNaghten standard. Nicely written but overshadowed by factual errors and failure to back up opinions with any sort of evidence. The completely positive praise is coming from people who don't actually know what the insanity defense is and how it is used. You have a nice style of writing, but effective writing requires you to back it up with fact.
 
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Roblynn88 said...
Feb. 24, 2013 at 12:13 pm:
Nicely written, poorly researched. The insanity defense does not allow too many people to go free. There are abuses for sure, but it is raised in fewer than 1% of criminal cases and successful in less than .25% of cases (Melton, 2007). Additionally, people found NGRI are not usually released. They are most commonly sent to an institution where they remain until they are determined not to present a danger to themselves or others. In some cases this may result in a shorter sentence than if th... (more »)
 
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Rosstipher said...
Jan. 3, 2013 at 4:45 pm:
This is well written. I agree with you. If someone is able to plan a murder out then they are not insane. This should not be a way to defend yourself unless you are proven to be mentally ill. When people committing murder are found not guilty and let back to the world, there is a chance of that person committing another crime. This should be taken away from the court system.
 
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pen_ups said...
Sept. 11, 2012 at 8:41 am:
I agree, I've heard of many cases where a murderer will get away because "they're insane" when really they just had a good lawyer. I don't understand how even if you are crazy you can commit a crime and not get punished for it. 
 
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writersrevenge said...
Dec. 23, 2011 at 7:42 am:
That is a good article. I always felt the same way. But...from looking at other information the few people who do use the insanity plea are turned down. it's not every criminal who pleads insanity gets away free.
 
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Genya This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 1, 2011 at 6:34 pm:
People found innocent by reason of insanity aren't set free. They are locked up in a mental institute until they become un-insane, which may never happen. I don't think someone afflicted with a serious mental illness that makes them unaware of right or wrong should be put to death, but helped so they become better members of society.
 
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SunnyD said...
Sept. 17, 2010 at 9:35 pm:
I was amazed that a teenager wrote this.  I think he did a great job analyzing the insanity defense.  I agree with him -- who determines insanity anyway and how can there be a useful standard?  Aren't all murderers insane by the very nature of the act they commit?  Even temporary lapses in sanity when someone commits crime should not be used as an excuse to avoid punishment.
 
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toxic.monkey said...
Sept. 17, 2010 at 12:20 pm:
Not only people who just pretend get let off... serial killers. Heard of them? They're serial because sometimes they get let off and then they go home and do something else terrible. it's too late to bring back whoever they killed, and only because apparently if you are insane you can go free.
 
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Trent said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 10:04 pm:
I think this article is sick. I totally agree with PaulaT that people need to be held responsible for their actions. Good job.
 
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MisplacedTexan14 said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 6:18 pm:
PS I am a Texan, and Ft. Hood was awful. Nadil Hassan wasn't insane, he was evil.
 
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MisplacedTexan14 said...
Jan. 25, 2010 at 6:17 pm:
I agree. Even if they are insane, they still need to be watched, because they've shown their insanity will lead them to do terrible things.
 
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NotThatGirl said...
Dec. 24, 2009 at 12:58 am:
I agree with what you say but am not sure if the insanity plea should be entirely done away with. It may be rare, but there are actually insane people out there who commit crimes. I do not think that because of this they should go unpunished either. I can respect your high opinion on the matter and must admit you wrote an extremely well written article.
 
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PAULAT said...
Dec. 16, 2009 at 11:48 am:
GOOD ARTICLE DANGEROUS people should not be able to use the excuse of insanity. They should be held responsible for their actions and not turned loose.
 
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jayce said...
Dec. 16, 2009 at 12:48 am:
This article is well written and very good. I agree fully! I just don't get where the undies come into play!??
 
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Becky said...
Dec. 16, 2009 at 12:15 am:
I really enjoyed this article. I think it's great when teens are up on current events and have a well-reasoned opinion on them. I was surprised at how many comments there are from people with the same last name and with such interesting first names....
 
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Steve said...
Dec. 16, 2009 at 12:12 am:
The author hit it right on the head with this paper. Awesome job!!
 
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Striped Undies said...
Dec. 15, 2009 at 9:51 pm:
I agree. The author is stellar! Love his opinion on the subject. How great that we all have different types of undies!
 
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Polka-dotted Undies said...
Dec. 15, 2009 at 8:55 pm:
This is a wonderful article! Pink Undies nailed my feelings exactly. I'm in complete support with the views expressed here.
 
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Pink Undies said...
Dec. 15, 2009 at 12:59 pm:
AWESOME ARTICLE!! Couldn't agree more! So many problems with our judicial system these days, this is just one of many. It's time to stop letting these dangerous killers free!
 
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