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Psychology of Homicide . Unit I Lecture Basics of Criminal Law and the Insanity Defense.

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psychology of homicide

Psychology of Homicide

Unit I Lecture

Basics of Criminal Law and the Insanity Defense

criminal justice

Criminal Justice can be defined as follows: Criminal (Crime):  An act committed or omitted in violation of criminal law forbidding or commanding it.  (Note:  A crime can be done by omitting to do something, such as paying taxes or failing to providing reasonable care for your child.)

Criminal Justice
criminal justice1

Justice-maintenance or administration of what is just (merited or deserved by) by the impartial adjustment (settlement) of conflicting claims. (Note:  In a criminal case the claimants are usually the "State" versus a "Person."  If its the federal government prosecuting a case of lets say a bank robber, then it would be "The United States" versus "John Doe."  In all cases of criminal law, it is the GOVERNMENT prosecuting an individual or group of people.

Criminal Justice
government v individual

The Criminal Justice System is a group of agencies charged with the administration of setting criminal justice claims.

  • There are 3 components of the criminal justice system, they are:
  • A person generally progresses through the system in the order above.  They first are usually arrested (not always by police - could be FBI, DEA, or Sheriff).  Then they go to court and if found guilty they proceed to be incarcerated in a correctional facility.
criminal law

Statutory Law v. Case Law

    • Statutory law is also called legislative law and is created by those we elect to both state and federal congress.  They are created by legislators and in Washington a prime example of statutory law would be the RCW's or Revised Code of Washington. 
    • Statutory laws usually consist of a definition of the offense and the possibilities of punishments.  An example would be "Forcible Rape-sexual intercourse or attempted sexual intercourse with persons against their will, by force, threat or deceit."
Criminal Law
case law

Case law is also called judicial law and is created by the courts from cases decided by the courts at the appeals and Supreme Court levels.  Case law serves two purposes; the first is to resolve conflict between various sources of law (city, state, and federal)) and the second is to interpret and clarify the law (some statutory laws created by legislators are confusing, convoluted and unclear).  An example of case law would be Miranda v. Arizona, this was a law created by a landmark US Supreme Court case.

Case Law
stare decisis

***A key term in case law is called "stare decisis" which means let the decision stand.  It is also called the law of precedence and aids in consistency.  "Stare decisis" means that future cases can be decided based on previous case decisions.

  • Definition-The doctrine of precedent, under which it is necessary for courts to follow earlier judicial decisions when the same points arise again in litigation.
  • U.S. Supreme Court cases can be looked up on the Internet at the site:
Stare Decisis
substantive law v procedural law

Substantive laws are written for the typical criminal offender. Substantive laws define the criminal offenses and the possibilities of punishments.  This could be by the commission of a crime, the omission of an act that would be a crime and possession - such as drugs or explosives.

  • Procedural laws are those that apply to persons that work in the criminal justice system.  These would be laws such as those that limit or describe police conduct, and those that guide judges instructions to juries.
Substantive Law v. Procedural Law
felony v misdemeanor

This classification of crime is made by the possibility defined by punishment.

    • Felony-death or imprisonment in a state or federal prison (penitentiary) of more than one year.
    • Misdemeanor-confinement in a local or county facility, normally less than one year.
Felony v. Misdemeanor
basic element of crime

There are basically three elements to a crime.  

  • A.  The first basic element of a crime is the "ACTUS REUS" or guilty act.  The guilty act of a murder would be the plunging of the knife into the chest, penetrating the skin, breaking the ribs, severing the aorta and becoming lodged in the spinal column.
  • B.  The second element of a crime is the "MENS REA" or the guilty mind.  This is also called the criminal INTENT of the crime.  Did the person intentionally stab the person in the chest?
  • C.  The third element of a crime is the "FUSION" or the bringing together of the act (ACTUS REUS) and the intent (MENS REA). Most crimes occur with an act and the intent, in some rare cases although the next element (Criminal Negligence) can be substituted for the intent.
Basic Element of Crime
criminal negligence

Criminal Negligence may substitute for intent. 

  • Definition-criminal negligence is a deviation from a standard of care a reasonable person would exercise. 
  • An example would be a mother leaving a 5-year-old at home alone and going to the casino, when she returns she finds the 5-year-old has fallen out an open 2nd floor window onto the concrete ground below.  Even though the mother had not "intended" that the baby be hurt, she did deviate from a standard of care a reasonable person would exercise.
Criminal Negligence
defenses in criminal law

1.  Infancy is a state of being young.  Children and young persons are not criminally liable if they are a certain age because they cannot form the intent necessary to convict them.   

  • In most states the cut off age where a child cannot be charged no matter what, is seven years old. 
  • From the age of eight to seventeen in most states we have the Juvenile Justice System to deal with ways to help children who commit crime (in some cases where the crime is extremely violent or the child has repeatedly committed crimes, the child can be CERTIFIED as an adult and stand trial in adult court.)
Defenses in Criminal law

Is another defense in which a person is not capable of forming intent. 

  • Definition-Insanity is a defense for criminal liability that asserts a lack of criminal responsibility.
  • Three main tests for insanity;
    • 1. The M’Naghten rule
    • 2. The ALI/MPC test
    • 3. The Irresistible-impulse test
insanity continued

The problem in most states is how we define who is and who is not INSANE. 

  • Do we say a man is insane if he comes home and finds his wife in bed with another woman and kills them both?  Do we say person is insane if a dog "SAM" speaks to them and tells them to go out and kill people? 
Insanity (Continued)
m naghten rule for insanity

The most famous example of the insanity defense is called the M'Naghten Rule derived from an 1843 murder case of Daniel M’Naghten who tried to kill the prime minister, Robert Peel, but instead killed his secretary.

  • M’Naghten suffered from paranoid delusions.
  • The rule states that at the time of committing the act, the accused was unable to distinguish right from wrong because of a disease of the mind.  Over half of the states in the U.S. still use a version of the M’Naghten Rule.
  • Now called NGRI. (Not guilty by reason of insanity)
M’Naghten Rule for Insanity
ali mpc substantial capacity test

In early 1960’s, the American Law Institute (ALI) included insanity standard in its Model Penal Code (MPC). Also known as the substantial-capacity test.

  • The ALI/MPC test states that-a person is not responsible for criminal behavior if at the time of such conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect, he/she lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality (wrongfulness) of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.
  • This is the easiest test to prove. Adopted by 26 states and the federal government.
ALI/MPC Substantial Capacity Test
irresistible impulse

The irresistible impulse test states the defendant knew his or her actions was wrong but must show they were unable to resist the urge to commit the crime.

    • Many people think the insanity defense is used a great deal and is not fundamentally fair.  In reality the insanity defense is used in less than 1% of all cases, and of that 1%, it is only successful 25% of the time. The insanity defense is extremely hard to prove. Some states have now adopted a guilty by mentally ill defense.
    • Some states have adopted the “guilty but mentally ill” standard (GBMI) in addition to the NGRI rule. GMBI is now used in 13 states.
Irresistible Impulse
coercion duress

Coercion/Duress means that you are forced to committing a crime by another person. 

  • The requirement is that you have to be facing immediate threat to either yourself or another person (it does not have to be a relative) and the threat has to be of great harm or death. 
  • The only defense coercion is NOT a defense for is murder-meaning if someone held a gun to your head and said to cut someone's throat, you would have to refuse and take the bullet.  
self defense

Self-Defense - A person is privileged to use such force as "reasonably" appears necessary to defend himself/herself or others. 

  • The rules are generally the force you must be commensurate to the force your way (meaning you can't shoot someone for calling you a name or punching you in the arm).  Also you cannot use deadly force to defend personal property (the only exception to this is sometimes your home).  You can only use this defense to protect yourself or others (it does not have to be a relative). You also have to be facing immediate/imminent threat (this has varied in some cases of spouse battering or domestic violence). 
Self Defense

Necessity - A person has the choice of two evils, either violate the law or something worse could happen. 

  • An example is if your wife is having a baby IN the car as you drive to the hospital, you see the baby coming out and you speed to get her there.  In this case you sped to preserve life (your wife and your baby).