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The Insanity Defense

TOK Presentation
by

Emilie Hauser

on 28 May 2013

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Transcript of The Insanity Defense

Can mass murderers simply plead insanity and obtain a lighter sentence?

Ethical consideration: Is one piece of evidence allowed to overrule all other evidence?

How do we know whether it is viable? To what extent is mental insanity a viable reason to exempt an individual from the law? How does the severity of the crime
impact on the successfulness of the insanity plea?

Does it make a difference to the outcomes? - The insanity defense is not overused nor is it an easy way out of a crime.

- Mental illness should exempt an individual from the law if they are able to prove insanity and thus should be subject to therapy. Knowledge Perspective John Hinckley did not actually murder anyone. The Insanity Defense To what extent is mental illness a viable reason to exempt an individual from the law? Real Life Situation Anders Behring Breivik John Hinckley Jr “I see all multicultural political activists as monsters, as evil monsters who wish to eradicate our people, our ethnic group, our culture and our country.”

- Anders Behring Breivik What is the insanity defense? “A man that is totally deprived of his understanding and memory, and doth not know what he is doing, no more than an infant, than a brute, or a wild beast, such a one is never the object of punishment.” M'Naghten Rules “Is not this insanity plea becoming rather common? Is it not so common that the reader confidently expects to see it offered in every criminal case that comes before the courts? [...] Really, what we want now, is not laws against crime, but a law against insanity.”

- Mark Twain (1870) Daniel M'Naghten 1843 Criteria needed:

1. The defendant did not understand the nature of his outcome.

2. The defendant could not tell the difference between right or wrong. Knowledge Issues 1. How can we determine if an individual is mentally insane? What problems arise from these procedures and how reliable are they in a court of law?

2. To what extent is mental illness a viable reason to exempt an individual from the law?

3. How does the severity of the crime impact the outcome of the insanity plea? Does it make a difference? How can we determine if an individual is mentally insane? Through:

1. The natural sciences
2. The human sciences Can you be held legally responsible for your brain?

Should brain scans be used as evidence in a court of law? Jim Fallon Can we possibly take individuality into account when formulating criteria for the insanity defense? But what about people who have all three ingredients and go onto rape and murder?

Should we feel empathy for them?

Should they be allowed to argue that their brains were at fault? What's on Jim Fallon's mind? What is the main difference between Breivik’s case and Hinckley’s case? Implications to these methods: -We do not understand enough about the brain.

- Relating back to the research completed by Gurley and Marcus, fMRI scans vary from person to person and are difficult to use as the sole means of identifying insanity. Gurley and Marcus also noted that brain scans are inconclusive because “’normal’ brain features have yet to be determined.”

-As for the human sciences, diagnosis of mental illness is difficult and can be subjective.

- The use of psychiatrists. What is the significance of this topic? - The insanity defense is rarely used and is rarely successful.

- A fundamental flaw of the insanity defense, as pointed out by lawyer, Randall Niles is that to have an insanity defense in the first place, it presupposes that we all agree on a universal standard of sanity.

- The process of diagnosing an individual as 'mentally insane' and determining whether they were mentally ill at the time of the crime is a very difficult process.

- Two areas of knowledge that will be focused on today are: the natural sciences and the human sciences. John Hinckley Jr Anders Behring Breivik On the 24th of August, 2012, Breivik was deemed sane and guilty of murdering seventy-seven individuals. He was sentenced to twenty-one years jail, the maximum penalty for Norway. If these three factors come into play, one can argue that their brain made them commit the crime. Does that mean that they are not responsible for it? Psychologists: Gurley & Marcus - Conducted research on how people perceive neurological evidence.

- Examined how 396 mock juros responded to neuroimaging (essentially brain scans) of defendants pleading "not guilty by reason of insanity."

- They concluded that the participants were more likely to declare a defendant "not guilty by reason of insanity" if they were presented with neurological evidence. How does one perceive neurological evidence? The Human Sciences "What amazes me is that any trial I've ever heard of, the defense psychiatrist always says that the accused is insane, and the prosecution psychiatrist always says he's sane. This happened invariably, in 100 per cent of the cases, thus far exceeding the laws of chance. You have to ask yourself, 'What is going on here?' The insanity defense is being used as a football... and quite frankly, you'd be better off calling Central Casting to get 'expert psychiatric testimony' in a criminal trail."

- Jefferey Harris Arguments for: - The main argument for the insanity defense is an ethical consideration, to be fair to all mentally ill people.

- The notion of free will and the capacity to morally make one's own decisions. Arguments against: - Perception: many people argue that lawyers manipulate the insanity defense and criminals only use it as a way of escaping justice.

- The main justification used by most critics is in the definition of 'insanity' itself, it is not a medical term but rather an ethical term. How do we know whether it is viable? Through the ways of knowing:

1. Language
2. Emotion
3. Reason
4. Language
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