The ALI standard, which is popularly known as the Brawner rule was developed to resolve the issues that existed in the other insanity standards such as M’Naughten test and the Durham rule. These two tests were deemed to be too cognitive in nature, and therefore they needed to be improved to ensure that the insanity determination standard addressed the loop holes that had previously been identified. In the ALI standard, it established that an accused person cannot be held to be criminally responsible if the mental disease led him to lack the substantial capacity to determine his rightness or wrongfulness of his actions. The requirements of this standard are:
• In this test, it requires the defendant to have a lack of understanding about what he or she did. This is unlike the McNaughton Rule whereby, it required the defendant to lack absolute knowledge about the consequences of his actions.
• There is the need to conduct a medical diagnosis about the respondent’s mental issues. If the medical diagnosis conducted by a medical expert ascertains that the defendant has a certain mental condition, then the insanity defense plea can be used (Costanzo, 2013).
The ALI standard is the most widely used insanity standard because it determines the defendant’s comprehension of the criminality of his or her conduct. It also ensures that the insanity defense plea is correctly determined because it requires that the mental disease is diagnosed by a licensed mental health professional.
Arguments against insanity defense
Most Americans are not comfortable with the use of insanity defense in the determination of whether a criminal is guilty or not. The reason for this is that the court may feel that the perpetrator does not deserve to be punished, even when he or she performed a horrible crime. However, it is important to note that; the negative attitude towards the use of insanity defense in a legal setting is borne from various factors. Most of the people hold prejudicial beliefs towards the mentally ill patients, and it contributes to the stigmatization of the people who suffer from mental illness (Ellis, 2013). They are the most despised and feared group and therefore because; mental illness is associated with being crazy, then they are assumed to be dangerous people. There is the perception by most people that any person who has been diagnosed with any mental condition is dangerous, and therefore should not mingle, or allowed to co-exist with the other people.
The media is today considered to be the primary source of information for most people, and the opinion that is held by most people in public is provided by what they watch. There is also the public fascination towards programs whose theme is the crime and its investigation. For instance, in the movie, Batman, the main villain the Joker is a mentally ill criminal capable of various violent acts (Ellis, 2013). Although such movies are meant for entertainment, they lead to most people associating various criminal acts such as murder with mentally ill people. According to research that was conducted for these investigative series, it was determined that in these programs, 73 percent of the time when there is a mentally ill character, he or she is portrayed as a dangerous person who is capable of causing bodily harm to himself and members of the public. Although this is meant for entertainment, it creates a sense of fear by the members of the public towards this group of people.
How often is the insanity defense used
The negative attitude that people have on the mentally ill people can be blamed on the language that is used to describe them. People who have mental illness are normally described using various derogatory terms such as psychos, maniacs, and nutters. It creates a direct link between mental distress and violence and leads people to have a sense of fear against mentally ill people, suspecting them of any criminal activities that may occur, especially the ones where there are no witnesses.
The negative attitude of the use of the insanity defense stems from the belief that this form of defense is a loophole in the legal system, and it can easily be used by a person to avoid being prosecuted. This is not the case. It is estimated that 75 percent of the cases that used insanity defense as their primary form of argument to justify a criminal activity, the defendants were found guilty of their crimes. The reason for this is that various measures have been taken into consideration to ensure that most of the successful cases in regards to the use of insanity defense were sincere. The court’s responsibility is to ensure that justice is served and everybody is given a fair trial. It cannot deny providing a fair trial to an individual simply because the public deems it as a loop hole (Ellis, 2013). Additionally, the public overestimates the number of times; this form of defense has been used in the felony cases. In his research, Michael Perlin found out that the public perception of the use of insanity defense in felony cases was 39 to 41 percent greater than the number of times that it is used (0.9%). There are about 9 cases out of 1,000 cases that use the insanity defense in its felony cases, of which, only two cases are successful (Ellis, 2013).
Insanity defense cases
There is also the common misconception that if one is found not guilty after being adjudged by the NGRI. The American public feels that a criminal deserves punishment by the crime that he or she committed. They feel that it is unfair for a person to commit a crime and then failed to be punished just because he or she is insane. However, based on the social prejudice against mentally ill people, the individual will spend a greater period in a mental institution than if he was taken to jail; because the authorities will feel that he may still be a danger to the community (Grachek, 2015). Richard Jafrey and Richard Pasewark conducted a study whereby they presented the study participants with facts on the use and success of insanity defense in legal defense. However, even after this, the study participants maintained the misconceptions that they had in regards to the use of insanity defense in felony cases.
Also, most people feel that mentally ill people due to their condition lack self-control, and therefore, are dangerous. Due to the fact that they are seen as a threat, there is some form of social restrictiveness, whereby; there is a notion that they need to be controlled. This means that they should be confined to mental institutions, and for the ones that have committed criminal offenses, the public feels safer when they are in prison (Guha, 2017). It creates a problem in that; most of the mentally ill people may not be willing to seek help for their conditions because of the stigma attached to the mental illness. By not seeking help, it may eventually lead to their conditions worsening.
Therefore as it has been ascertained that most people hold negative opinions in regards to the use of insanity defense and how it can be applied in a court of law, it is important to select an impartial jury. During the jury selection, the people who will be selected need to be impartial and apply the law, the way it ought to be used. Their personal opinions should not be allowed to play a part in their decision-making process. If for instance, in a trial that is using the insanity defense plea, the jury has a majority of biased individuals about this case (Hagan, 2008). Then it will mean that; the defendant may be denied a just trial because of the personal opinions that most of the jury members have in regards to the issue at hand. Previous research shows that the gender of the jurors plays an important role in their decision-making about the type of crime that has been committed. For instance, if the trial involves a suspected rapist and the jurors are mainly comprised of women, the jury will most likely provide a guilty verdict, even when the facts of the case indicate that the defendant most probably did not commit the crime. Also, there is often racial bias when the jury and the defendant (s) are of different races, especially for white and black people.
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