Throughout the process of conviction and court cases, there comes a variety of different standards that are put into place, in order to make sure criminals are put to justice in ways that make sense. This is the most common of scenarios. However, this can change, if those convicted are believed to be mentally incapable of standing trial, which can be plead if one doesn’t believe they are either innocent or guilty. Individuals may make this plea themselves, or, in the case that the judge or the jury believes that the convicted falls along that criteria. This defense, while almost rarely used today, is critical, in order to provide fair and equal treatment for anyone who happens to find themselves in a court of law.
There are many different opinions regarding this defense. Proponents of the argument believe that, with enough evidence, allows those who severely need help are able to be provided with that help, specific to the extent of psychological or psychiatric impairment, and while this is entirely true, it isn’t always the case, as opponents tend to believe this defense is a means to allow criminals to be released on charges that range from shoplifting to full blown manslaughter. The morale is often challenged, considering the fact that there are often times exceptions to this defense that work against whoever happens to be using it. The term ‘insanity’ itself is a very broad term, legally, because there are vast differences from each psychiatric disorder, both in how it affects patients, and what comes out of these afflictions.
A modern case study comes from that of James Holmes, who opened fire into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado back in 2012. While the motives for this case are to this day still unknown, evidence found gives a bit of insight on what might have gone on in Holmes’ mind before the shooter, as journal entries written by Holmes himself showcases pretty disturbing content. Without getting down into the nitty gritty details, Holmes appears to be very apathetic about the way society and the world looks. The theme of death and humanity appear quite often in his writings, which could lead one to believe that yes, maybe there was a touch of depression, however, often times during such a state, one is still mentally in control of their behaviors, without regard to more serious cases, typically ones ending in depression induced psychosis. While psychiatric evaluations were complete, in order to gauge Holmes mentality, the further notes he had taken down describe how the shooting was to take place, even going as far as to describe the ETA of police officers, depending on his location. It’s disturbing to think someone would put so much effort into planning the deaths of innocent civilians, which typically is the case in mass shootings. The insanity defense is very tricky in that there are many factors that can and cannot dictate how we view someone as, quote, ‘insane.’ While one can be mentally incapable to stand trial, Holmes eye for detail really shows that he knew what he was doing, down to the last second, and knew how he was going to carry everything out, something one typically doesn’t have should they meet the requirements of this defense.
Scientifically, this defense helps allow for psychiatric advances for criminal behaviors. What causes them? Is there any correlation between a certain ailment, and a certain crime? Are we really meant to judge the criminally insane, when they’re not completely ‘there,’ in a sense? The human brain is extremely fascinating as it is complex. While it has already been proven that there are in fact specifics in the brain that often times make for these criminal behaviors, being able to classify each sickness to its victim, and finding appropriate treatment or punishment is key, in order to keep things in the legal system with some level of morality. As a societal whole, giving those who wouldn’t necessarily have the chance to obtain such a substantial amount of treatment for behaviors that harshly inflict everyday living is key. The US legal system has many advantages as it does flaws, especially in the gray areas revolving around psychiatric disorders and how the affect criminals. Having the knowledge to determine what makes sense to do in what situation is an advancement, as too many people are getting off with charges lesser than their actual crime, for reasons that make absolutely no sense. Yes, it’s imperative that every potential inmate have a fair trial, the outcomes are sometimes less than beneficial.
Attached is a more informal look at this defense.