I should have a constitutional right to be insane, dammit!

But I don’t have a constitutional right to plead insanity as a defense in a criminal trial. That ain’t right, Jethro!

I found this interesting story about a case headed for the Supreme Court. In the wake of the John Hinkley trial, 5 states eliminated insanity as a criminal defense. In one, the state supreme court overruled the legislature and re-instituted the the defense, but 4 states remain where it is not. They are Idaho, Kansas, Montana and Utah.

And in Idaho this guy kills two people because they are “stealing his energy”. Here is a key quote from the article:

Idaho does apparently offer a substitute to the insanity plea – “allowing evidence of mental illness to negate a finding that the defendant was aware that that his conduct was criminal”, according to the story. Interesting that on the surface at least, the judge found just that, if you accept “wrongfulness of his conduct” to be the same as “criminal conduct”.

Anyway, the US Supremes have not had to rule directly on this matter since the flurry of changes to state laws, and now apparently they will. Or maybe not – who knows what kind of rationale they might come up with to avoid the issue.

Please, enjoy the rest of your Mundane and Pointless threads of the day.

It is a point of philosophical debate. Many people believe the perpertrators of crimes should be convicted and punished without regard to their state of mind. Thus the absurd footnotes of history where pigs have been convicted of crimes. But there’s a rational aspect to it, some believe the fairest justice comes from blind construction of the law based on the observable facts, and no one can know the workings of another’s mind, nor should it be a consideration in the execution of justice. A bit rigid for my tastes, but I’ve been surprised by the people who believe that.

So what would be so wrong about hooking him up to some power in return? :stuck_out_tongue:

The rigidity isn’t the problem. It’s the aspect that there’s no way for you to make sure you won’t be punished. If you can be convicted for crimes you didn’t intend to commit, then there’s no place where you can be safe.

It’s also 100% ineffective. If you punish someone for something they didn’t mean to do, you haven’t prevented them from doing it again, seeing as they didn’t intend to do it the first time. They are exactly back where they were.

These two problems are large enough that I honestly cannot listen to this position without thinking badly of the people who provide it. Either they are incapable of taking something happening to others and applying it to themselves, i.e. empathy, or, worse, they can do so, but are under some delusion that they are exempt from any rules they create for society.

And if they specifically mention mental illness, then I’m pretty much certain they are bigots against them. They’re an “other” that they don’t have to be concerned about–and that’s the foundation of bigotry: US v. THEM thinking.

… except that they are now in a situation that’s enormously deleterious to their already catastrophic mental health.

Also, the idea that insanity defences shouldn’t exist because they deal with a state of mind is ridiculous. The vast majority of serious crimes depend on the mental state of the accused. The requisite mental state, mens rea, is the difference between murder and manslaughter, for example. If the court is already trying the accused’s intentions to that extent, it’s silly to say that it can’t also look into whether the accused was unable to form an intention due to mental illness.

Well that slapped a black cloud on my day.