According to the practice I should admit that the World Judicial System is not ideal. It happens very often when a judge’s verdict does not satisfy a defendant and his defense lawyers. In some cases a prosecutor does not agree with the decision of the judge. It happens because there is no strict system of making sentences. According to circumstances the sentence of one and the same offence may be different. That is why the defense and the defendant have an opportunity to use such chance and try to reduce or even change the undesirable verdict into the more appropriate one. There are a lot of cases in the world when a judge’s verdict is out of doubt, but there are some cases where terms of imprisonment of a defendant are too short or a judge considers a cruel defendant not guilty, such cases attract society’s attention and are under discussion. I should note that the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is one of the most discursive.
A defendant and his/her defense lawyers do everything in order to reduce and if it is possible even to avoid the terms of imprisonment. Sometimes they try to persuade a judge and juries with the help of fabricated circumstances and falsified medical documents that his/her defendant was of diminished responsibility during committing the crime. Of course, it is not easy to do such things, but there are some cases which raise doubts of judges, prosecutors, juries, media and the whole society. In order to analyze and prove the fact that the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is the possibility to avoid imprisonment I should examine and compare different criminal cases with this verdict in details.
The list of the most notorious insanity defense cases is in the journal Listverse. The author examines famous 10 cases from 19th till 20th centuries. The verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is the only thing connecting these crimes. However, judges did not consider that all the defendants were not guilty some of them just could not persuade judges and juries in their insanity.
The Guardian described the wide-spread criminal case of James Holmes who committed mass killing. His defense lawyers do everything in order to reduce terms of imprisonment or change the sentence of punishment, but the judge does not believe their facts and the proposal verdict must be life imprisonment. This case has not finished yet. The defendant is waiting for the final judge’s decision.
The Journal of the American Academy of the Psychiatry and the Law Online investigates the successful defense of an offender with a well?established history of schizophrenia. Facts, rules and reasons of the case explain the judge’s verdict and the scheme of the sentence-making process. As the result of this case there was a reform of the Judicial System of the USA.
Business Insider analyzes one more case with the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. This is cannibalism of Tyree Lincoln Smith. This case shows the behavior of a person with mental illness. Under the pressure of inner voice he committed awful offences.
As a matter of fact, there are some cases which are under discussion and attract the attention of the society. I should admit that the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity is always rather complicated and disputable. In order to understand this verdict better, first of all its meaning should be explained. Very often people confuse such terms as insanity and mental illness. I should note that mental disease is a psychiatric concept; insanity is a cultural and legal one. According to the US court of law if a defendant has mental illness a judge may pass a verdict of not guilty by the reason of insanity where the last one is simply the legal definition of mental disease. It is very important to note that this verdict means that the defendant committed the crime because of his/her mental disorder and he/she did not understand that his/her actions were illegal or the defendant understood nothing of what he/she was doing at all or an irresistible force made this person commit the crime. Only such characteristic features of this disease may help the defendant to reduce the terms of imprisonment or change the sentence. By the way even a defendant who has mental illness may be pleaded guilty if he/she intends to commit a crime.
In these cases defense lawyers place the most difficult position because they must prove legal insanity. In order to do it they should provide credible expert testimony where the court may find the whole information about the defendant’s mental disease. Information such as reasons of his/her illness, its development and consequences. According to the defense explanation of the defendant’s illness it should be clearly understandable that the accused did not intend to commit a crime.
As for a judge position in this case he/she has not enough knowledge to check the truth of medical documents that is why he/she may only consider if these documents demonstrate the fact of mental disease or not. Also the judge has to decide if the defendant intends to commit a crime because even a person suffering from mental illness will pass a verdict of guilty if he/she commits a crime intentionally. That is why as a matter of fact not always mental disease may let a defendant avoid punishment according to the Judicial System of the USA because he/she must not intend to commit a crime.
According to the judicial practice there are some cases in its history which attract the great attention of society and are under the discussion. In order to examine such cases in details it is very useful to analyze some of them. A robbery which took place in Manhattan in 1941 was famous for crash of defense lawyers and defendants who wanted to make the judge think that they have mental illness. So, two brothers robbed a payroll truck and killed two persons, one of the victims was a policeman. During the trial robberies tried to pretend that they had mental disorder through their extraordinary behavior. Defendants barked, drooled and cried, but the court did not believe them and the judge passed a verdict of guilty. Even after the judge’s decision they did not give up and tried to make the court change the verdict with the help of 10 months hunger strike. However, such behavior of robberies did not help them to avoid punishment because of the lack of necessary medical documents and as the result the sentence was capital punishment. In 1942 defendants were taken to the electric chair and they were executed. According to the example and the judicial practice of the USA I should note that not all the cases where lawyers choose the way of defense such as insanity of a defendant are successful. The method of pretending that defendants have mental illness did not help to avoid punishment. This criminal case crashed.
The fist criminal case where a defendant was acquitted because of temporary insanity was in New York in 1859. American politician and Civil War Union General Daniel Sickles was famous for his public scandals. When he was 33, he married 15 years old Teresa Bagioli. Daniel Sickles was jealous of his wife interest in Philip Barton Key; he was married but loved young girls very much. So Daniel Sickles shot and killed Philip in Lafayette Park. Teresa Bagioli explained that her husband acted out of fight. The court which consisted only with males believed the young girl and her husband and the judge passed the verdict of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. The attitude of the society towards this case was different, some of them supported the court’s decision and were glad that Daniel Sickles killed the adulterer Philip Barton Key; others were against and considered that the defendant was guilty and must be punished. According to the facts of the case it should be admitted that only saying of Teresa Bagioli persuaded the judge and saved her husband from the punishment. Of course, the court did not have to believe the defendant’s wife’s words because she was interested in her husband guiltlessness. However, taking into account the political activity of the defendant and Teresa Bagioli’s statements the court made a decision of not guilty. So the words of Daniel Sickles’ wife helped him to avoid punishment.
One more criminal case which attracted the attention of the society was the case of a serial killer of Jeffrey Dahmer. He committed many offences such as dismemberment, cannibalism and necrophilia from 1987 till 1991. According to the Criminal Code the punishment for such cruel offences was the death sentence. However, the defendant could escape a lot. His defense lawyers in order to change this sentence presented medical documents and necessary facts and proved that the defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity.
In order to understand the reason of these offences some arguments, attestations and real consequences of this awful case should be pointed out. First of all it is very important to describe the childhood of Jeffrey Dahmer. He was not an ordinary healthy child; Dahmer had such symptoms as withdrawal and avoidance of any social interactions. As a child he had his home collection, but his collection consisted from dead animals. His favorite hobby was to cut, dissolve and mutilate dead animals. As a result of such cruel and unordinary behavior Dahmer became a killer. He committed his first crime in 1987. Dahmer beat Steven Hicks to death because such a gay wanted to leave Dahmer’s car and the defendant did not want to let him do such a thing. Then he killed Steven Tuomi and did not remember about it because of lapse of memory. So as a result Dahmer committed more than 15 murders excluding sexual abuse. However, Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested for giving drugs and sexual harassment to a young boy.
The punishment for such criminal cases was the sentence to death according to the Judicial System of the USA. However, the prosecutor taking into account the defendant’s mental disease wanted to sentence him to 15 life sentences, so he provided facts and proved that he committed serial killings. However, defense lawyers presented medical documents of Dahmer where all his child’s symptoms were written. Also, defense could prove that the defendant was irresponsible during committing all his crimes. As a result, the judge passed a verdict that Dahmer was not guilty by reason of insanity. I should note that this criminal case was rather dangerous and complicated because there were many moments of a support. Of course, the defendant was a really mentally sick person. His strange hobby in his childhood explained the behavior of the defendant. Although, the severity of those serial killings shocked the society. However, defense lawyers helped Dahmer to change the verdict. So his verdict was not guilty by the reason of insanity. That is why he could avoid the sentence to death but he was sentenced to life imprisonment.
The defendant who made the Judicial System change was 30 years old Brian Leron Sam. In 2002 he robbed a bank and left his note there with all the information about himself. Policemen quickly arrested him. After the testimony it was known that he suffered from the deep form of schizophrenia. It means that during the robbery he did not understand the illegality of his actions and seriousness of consequences.
As the result of such criminal case the judge passed a verdict of not guilty by the reason of insanity and the defendant was sentenced to a federal penitentiary. The US Sentencing Commission established a mandate where the terms of being in penitentiary were fixed and according to the severity of a felony and physical and mental conditions of the defendant such terms varied from 92 to 115 months. Taking into account all these facts Brian Leron Sam had to be in a federal penitentiary for 115 months. However, the judge understood that the robbery of the bank was not really severe criminal case that it sounded, so the defendant simply snatched some money on the counter and fled. That is why the mandatory sentence was changed into advisory and after that one more detail appeared, it was that the defendant should prove the fact that he did not intend to commit a crime. As the result the final sentence of the defendant was 92 months in a federal penitentiary. I can name the verdict of the judge as just one. The defendant was a really mentally ill person and the crime was not serious. Sam did not understand what he was doing, this was not a criminal case in some way, and there were irresponsible actions of a mentally diseased man.
The crime which shocked the society and raised discussions and doubts was cannibalism of Tyree Lincoln Smith. The murder took part in Connecticut in 2012. Smith killed a homeless man and ate his eye and parts of his brain. According to the results of the test which a psychiatrist of Yale University Doctor Reena Kapoor provided Smith listened to voices which told him what to do. Voices ordered Smith to kill and ate eyes in order to see into the “spirit realm” and brains in order to understand better the victim’s behavior. Angel “Tun Tun” Gonzalez was a victim of the cannibal; his dead body was decomposed in an abandoned apartment. His body was found in a month after his death. By the way I should admit that the doctor also pointed out that Smith continued to retain his lust even after the murder. Kapoor also singled out that Smith was under psychotic incidents since his childhood. So with the help of results of Doctor Kapoor the verdict was not guilty by reason of insanity. However, it was not easy to prove because there were some discursive moments of the case. Obviously, Smith intended to kill a homeless man, he even known what he did and for what purpose, however results of the test showed that strange voices made him commit the crime. Only this fact helped him to avoid real punishment so the sentence for Smith was to spend all his life in a mental hospital.
The criminal case of mass killing of 2012 also attracts a lot of people around the world. This case is still unsolved and under discussion. It happened in Colorado a former student James Holmes killed 12 persons and injured 70 ones in a packed Denver-area movie theater. After such mass killing policemen arrested him and put into prison. According to the severity of the crime the prosecutor wants to sentence the defendant to death. However, the judge’s probable decision is life imprisonment. Defense lawyers try to do everything in order to reduce the terms of imprisonment or change the punishment. That is why they present medical documents and necessary facts which point out that the defendant has mental disease. In such a way they want to make the court believe in Holmes’ insanity.
It should be admitted that it is very difficult to consider a person not guilty by reason of insanity if he/she has to make some preparations before the murder. According to the evident facts the defendant bought weapons, explosive materials and necessary ammunition. Also it is very important to note that Holmes intended to commit a crime because he went to the theatre taking his weapons. So it should not be stated that the defendant planned the murder. However, defense lawyers insist that Holmes need a lengthy mental evaluation.
According to the facts and behavior of the defendant the prosecutor does not believe that Holmes did not understand what he was doing. The prosecutor considers that medical documents are not true as like as some facts presented by the defense lawyers. All these things make the judge hesitate because the only verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity can help the defendant to avoid the real punishment. That is why this case is still unsolved.
To draw the conclusion it should be admitted that not all the cases with the verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity are fabricated. Of course if a defendant suffers from mental disease and does not intend to commit a crime a judge should take into account these facts and make a verdict according to them. However, there are cases when defendants pretend to be a mentally diseased person such as the robbery in Manhattan in 1941 or when defense lawyers present doubtful medical documents and facts such as the case of a serial murderer James Holmes. These criminal cases provoke indignation of the society. So I want to note that it is very difficult to find attenuating circumstances in order to justify the defendant or change the measure of punishment. However, it is very important to note that according to the judicial practice one of the most known methods of the defense which helps to avoid or reduce the terms of punishment is still the insanity of a defendant.
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