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Insanity Defense Research Assignment Paper (Research Paper Sample)


You are to demonstrate your ability to conduct an abbreviated literature review on a forensic psychology topic of your choosing and report your findings from the literature review. Your Final Project should include 12–15 research articles on your chosen topic and should be empirically based. The articles also should represent contemporary findings on your topic and come from peer-reviewed journals. Your Final Project should end with a summary of the major findings from your literature review and your recommendation of possible future directions that research on your chosen topic may cover. A superior Final Project demonstrates breadth and depth of knowledge and critical thinking appropriate for graduate-level scholarship. The paper must follow APA Publication Manual guidelines and be free of typographical, spelling, and grammatical errors. The paper should be 10–12 pages, not counting the title page, abstract, or references. Please note that quantity does not always correspond to quality, and a well-written Final Project that includes all of the necessary information can be accomplished in fewer than the maximum number of pages. Please note that you must use primary sources. Peer-reviewed journal articles should make up the bulk of your references (80% or more). In other words, you may use non-peer reviewed and non-empirically based material in addition to your 12–15 peer-reviewed, empirically-based journal articles. If referring to a book as one of your non-peer reviewed, non-empirically based sources, be sure to include all information in APA style, including specific page numbers.


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The title of my research paper is on insanity defense as a forensic psychological issue in criminal law and justice. I will give an in-depth analysis of the history of insanity defense from its inception and current state as well as its application in determination of verdicts in a court of law. I will also give a practical example of the application of the insanity defense in American history. The principle of insanity defense is a very tactical but rarely used strategy by defendants. The overlying factor supporting its application and maybe success is the fact that a person accused of a crime can acknowledge that they committed the crime, but argue that they are not responsible for it because of their mental illness, by pleading “not guilty by reason of insanity”. CITATION Fra16 \l 1033 (Francone, 2016) The application of the insanity defense appeal by the defendant is an outright source of controversy and hence it has received endless backlash in several states such as Idaho leading to its total ban. This may translate into having many insane persons imprisoned, or on the other hand however, justice is found for the plaintiff regardless of the defendant’s mental state.
When one commits a crime, he or she is subject to face judgment or trial by the jury to determine the verdict. Their guilt may be clearly established but what may remain at large is whether they were aware of what they were doing by committing the alleged crime. The defendant’s state of the mind or rather mental condition is therefore put into scrutiny considering the fact that they may have been suffering from a mental disorder at the time of committing the crime and are therefore not subject to imprisonment. In a case whereby the defendant’s state of mind is established and it is clear that they had been suffering from a serious mental disorder at the time of committing the crime, the principle of insanity defense may come into action. The defendant’s lawyer may take advantage of the principle of this situation by accepting that their client indeed committed the crime but are not subject to imprisonment with regards to their mental state. The insanity defense is an excuse, a reason why the person should not be held criminally liable for their actions, based on the argument that they did not understand that their acts were wrong. CITATION Ins14 \l 1033 (Insanity Defense, 2014)
More often than not, in criminal law, insanity may come up as a factor on the defendant’s side and is consequently used as an excuse for their criminal act. It is just in the recent past that a large percentage of states in the USA do not find insanity justice as a sufficient reason for a criminal to evade the verdict of being guilty and facing imprisonment. Insanity suggests that a person did not fully appreciate the nature of right and wrong in their actions. CITATION Cal93 \l 1033 (Callahan, McGreevey, Morrissey, & Steadman, 1993) First and foremost, it is important to meaning of insane. The Oxford dictionary defines insane as being in a state of mind that prevents normal perception, behavior, or social interaction; seriously mentally ill. It is important to note that the legal definition of “insane” in this context is quite different from the psychiatric definition “mentally ill”. Also, the definition of insanity varies from one jurisdiction to another. CITATION Cal93 \l 1033 (Callahan, McGreevey, Morrissey, & Steadman, 1993)
It is important to understand the history of the inception of insanity defense in criminal law. Insanity defense as a factor of determining the judge’s verdict over the defendant’s trial has been in existence since the ancient Greece and Rome empires. Even back in this period of history, many people viewed it as immoral to punish someone for a crime they had no idea what they were doing was wrong at the time. CITATION Dow \l 1033 (Downey, Farhat, Garofolo , & Jones)There are pieces of written evidence containing details of how court cases were dismissed on the basis of insanity in England. The first account of court trials involving insanity as a determining factor dates to 1724. The fate of insane defendants was uncertain in the United Kingdom until the Criminal Lunatics Act 1800, following the acquittal of James Hadfield, provided for their indefinite detention. Madness to most courts at this point meant someone totally deprived of understanding and with the mentality of an infant. CITATION Mel97 \l 1033 (Melton, Petrila, Poythress, & Slobogin, 1997) In the year 1843, the maiden court case for insanity came by in the M’Naghten case. In this case, an English man named Daniel M’Naghten shot and took away the life of the secretary to the British prime minister, with belief the prime minister could have been conspiring against him. M’Naghten was acquitted on the basis of insanity and instead of being imprisoned, he was placed under surveillance in a mentally challenged persons’ institution for the rest of his life. This court case is the mother of the “M’Naghten rule” that acted as a point of reference in the United States and United Kingdom for similar cases involving insanity of the defendant. Under this law, it is believed that the defendant was not responsible for the crime owing to the fact that at the time of committing it, he or she was not aware of the nature of act if it was right or wrong. The jury was required to answer two questions: (1) did the defendant know what he was doing when he committed the crime? Or (2) did the defendant understand that his actions were wrong? This test allowed a prosecutor to prove sanity easily by simply showing a defendant understood the moral consequences of an action; mental illness did not matter. CITATION Col02 \l 1033 (Collins , Hinkebein, & Schorgl, 2002)The M’Naghten rule is just but one of the many tests and approaches used by courts in determining legal insanity. Depending on the jurisdiction, courts use one or a combination of the following tests for legal insanity:
* The “Irresistible Impulse” test – As a result of a mental disease, defendant was unable to control his impulses, which led to a criminal act. CITATION Ins \l 1033 (Insanity Defense) This test argues that the defendant may have been aware that what he or she was doing was illegal; but due to a mental disorder, they were unable ...
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