The insanity defense is used as a plea in court cases when a defendant does not want to be held criminally responsible for the alleged act. In legal terms, if the defendant has had a lack of mental capacity or didn’t understand right from wrong, or was unable to conform their conduct to the requirements of the law, they may be found not guilty due to insanity (Meynen, 2021). The standard used by juries has changed with different eras seen in our society. This can be true when looking at current-day measures and those of the past.
It is complex that the insanity defense criteria have changed throughout history. There has been much debate over whether it is justified for this to be used in court. The question of how to define insanity was always a challenge, and some cases were questionable. While some people thought there were legitimate reasons to prove why it should be used, others argued against it because they felt some mental illnesses were not trustworthy in a court case. This conflict shows us that differences in society are a part of our world and that people will always disagree on specific issues no matter what.
The changing criteria for the insanity defense tell us that society’s attitudes toward mental illness have changed even more than our attitudes toward crime. A person who commits a violent offense today is more likely to be held accountable for their actions and less likely to be acquitted of insanity (VanDercar & Resnick 2018). Modern medicine allows us to view mental illness differently, and our prison system has evolved too.
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