Two Views of the Insanity Defense

This paper presents pro and con views of allowing the insanity defense in the criminal justice system and concludes with the argument favoring the continued use of the insanity defense.

Alan Stone in Chapter 17, begins his discussion of the insanity defense by defining the basic nature of the law, and the basic nature of psychiatry. He argues that the law is formal, rigid, traditional, objective and judgmental; psychiatry is flighty, expansive, unconventional, subjective, and understanding. There seems to be little room for common ground. Stone intimates, that what the law wanted from psychiatric investigation, was rock-bound methodology that explained aberrant behavior. During the 1950s the Durham decision further cemented the relationship between the two disciplines. The California Supreme Court seemed more willing to be lead by psychiatric reasoning, giving more credence to the insanity plea, and bring the concept of diminished capacity to the fore.

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