In the discussion thread: Colorado Theater Shooting: James Holmes' Attorneys Fight Prosecutors Over Package [View all]
Response to wordpix (Reply #20)
Wed Aug 1, 2012, 12:16 PM
happyslug (11,827 posts)
21. The issue of insantiy is what was his understanding of his intentions.
Under the Common Law, if a person did NOT have the mental capacity of a typical 14 year old, he or she was viewed as NOT having the mental capacity to commit a crime. No "evil mind". Now, children as young as 7 were held to this standard (there is a case in the 1700s where a 7 year old boy was hanged. the jury ruled he had the mental capacity of a 14 year old when he committed the crime).
There is the case of the Husband, upon hearing that his wife had an affair, upon hearing of the affair ran to his wife alleged paramour and shot him dead. The jury found that his rage on hearing of the affair put his mind in such a state that he no longer hand the capacity of a 14 year old, thus the defendant walked with a jury finding of insanity (This was an 1859 case, the husband later became a General in the Civil War).
When someone tried to kill Prescient Andrew Jackson in the 1830s, the assassin's intention was clearly to kill Jackson, the assassin's pistols misfired, something like a once in 38,000 chance (he was using TWO percussion pistols). At trial, it was found that the defendant intended to kill Jackson, he knew what he was doing, but the jury still held he did NOT have the mental capacity of a 14 year old and ruled him insane (The jury may have felt mercy on him, Jackson on seeing the pistols misfire started to hit the defendant with his cane).
Now, since 1900 the States have adopted other rules as to who is insane but the above understanding is still the basis of insanity defense. Age is no longer used as a guideline, but the test adopted often follow the concepts that an insane person is like children under 14 i.e. can have the ability to "Intend" to do kill someone and the ability to actually kill someone, but that by itself does NOT mean that the person fully understands what he or she is doing.
While under the Common Law. the law was that for the children below age 7, such children could never have the mental capacity of a 14 year old, between ages 7 and 14, the mental capacity was a jury decision on a case by case basis, over age 14 the law presumed you had the capacity of a 14 year old. This has all been changed by statute to use other more medical terms instead of age but the underlying concepts are best seen if we use age as a guideline.
The ages I am giving, 7 and 14 were guidelines under the Common Law. When the insanity defense was govern by the common law, the courts viewed the ages as something to give the jury to use as a guide. Since 1900, criminal trials have avoided using these ages as the actual test, but the tests adopted roughly follows the same concepts on mental development, thus why I am using them here. The actual tests set today, set by statute, are more detailed and harder for a defendant to meet, but the US Supreme Court has ruled that if someone does NOT have the capacity to understand what he did was wrong, he can NOT be convicted of a crime. Thus a state can NOT outlaw the insanity defense, for that would be a denial of due process.
Most insanity defenses fail, but often it is the only defense possible. I suspect it will be the only defense possible in this case. It will be up to a jury to decide if the defendant is insane, for insanity is a LEGAL STANDARD that a Jury will decide not a medical standard. Whatever the state says is the mental test for insanity will be used (the actual tests varies from state to state). There is enough facts leaked from various sources to justify an insanity defense, it is up to a jury if the defense succeeds or not. i.e. can the defense meet whatever is the requirement for insanity as set by State law? That is a tough job and dependent on how the courts have interpreted whatever is the governing statute.
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Replies to this discussion thread
|Omaha Steve||Jul 2012||OP|
The issue of insantiy is what was his understanding of his intentions.
|4th law of robotics||Aug 2012||#22|
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