Ideally, the insanity defense echoes a societal inclination to provide alternative sentencing by providing mental health treatment for mentally ill criminals, rather than utilizing traditional incapacitation punishment for criminals whose mental illness was the direct cause of their criminal behavior. When an insanity plea is successful the defendant is wholly acquitted, even though the prosecution may have proven beyond reasonable doubt the defendant committed the offense. Hence, the insanity defense reflects a crime sentencing policy that that identifies there are unique situations in which the need for treatment over punishment is preferable (Butler, 2011). The premise of this theory of thought revolves around the concept that the acts of individuals who are deranged as a direct result of being psychotically mentally ill should not be judged in the same manner as the criminal offenses of rational people (Miller et al., 2006).
Brief History of the Insanity Defense.
In 1834 the guiding principles for evaluating defendants claiming mental illness to exculpate criminal responsibility were established by the British courts as the result of the Daniel M'Naghten case. M'Naghten shot and killed the private secretary to the Prime Minister, because he believed the secretary was the Prime Minister. M'Naghten's case defense revolved around the grounds that M'Naghten suffered from serve auditory and visual hallucinations and delusion that caused him to think that the Prime Minister was following him, and out to persecute him constantly. M'Naghten was found to be not guilty, and sentenced to spend the rest of his life in an asylum. Public indignation of M'Naghten's acquittal led the Queen to mandate the English House of Lords to restructure how mental illness and sentencing was handled in the court system. As an outcome the M'Naghten rule was developed. The rule generated a presumption of sanity, and required the defense to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following two facts: (1).