What is insanity? "Insanity is a social and legal term rather then a medical one. It is a condition which renders the affected person unfit to enjoy liberty of action because of the unreliability of his behavior with concomitant danger to himself and others" (Schmalleger, 2003, p.255). The insanity defense is used too much today in our legal system. There are many questionable defense tactics. They are designed to protect the rights of the accused, and further the cause of justice. However, in many cases this betterment of justice has been taken too far, and thus pleas such as "Temporary insanity" are born. The insanity defense in itself has been stretched nearly to its breaking point.
One might ask what is the purpose of the insanity defense? The insanity defense found a place in our legal system due to the issues the court faced regarding those whom were truly mentally ill. These individuals needed to have this defense as their mental capacity differs from those with a sane mind. .
The history of the insanity defense goes back as far as government. Throughout most of history there have been no specific criteria for exculpatory insanity. In ancient Hebrew times, the law simply states that idiots, lunatics, and children below a given age are not to be held criminally responsible. Indeed, in Ancient Greek and Roman cultures, nothing has survived to show any adaptation to this exception, save a part of Plato's Laws. Platos Laws says that if a defendant is senile, a child or proven insane he should be responsible for no more than the payment of civil damages, "Except that if he has killed someone and his hands are polluted by murder he must depart to a place in another country and live there in exile for a year" (Maeder ). There are scarce traces of early insanity cases and it is difficult to make generalizations about the defense, yet there have been some noted cases where the defendant was sentenced to life in prison (Maeder ).