Friday, June 02, 2006

Is the Insanity Defense Moral Evasion?

Is the Insanity Defense Moral Evasion

When we look at our court system today in America, it seems more and more that people want to shirk their responsibility for their actions.  We all do it too.  We rationalize our sin away by thinking that we are not that bad comparably.  But none of us can sin in isolation.  By that I mean that we cannot sin without it affecting others who know us.  Our character does matter and our current decisions are an important ingredient that forms our current character.  The bible states that 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life (Galatians 6:8).
In the Old Testament Moses speaks to the sons of Gad and Reuben about not discouraging the sons of Israel from crossing over into the land which the Lord has given them.  He concludes that even if they stay to themselves and not help their brothers cross over the Jordan River that “that they would have “…sinned against the Lord, and be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers . 32:23).

This is the same problem when our justice system uses an “insanity defense” to achieve a “not guilty” verdict.  Are delusional people still morally responsible in some sense?  That is the question that is being asked in the U. S. Supreme Court today.  The court is set to rule on the constitutionality of insanity-defense laws across the nation. The case, Clark v. Arizona, has to do with a defendant, Eric Michael Clark, who at age seventeen killed an Arizona police officer, supposedly thinking that he was shooting a space alien.

The modern insanity defense has been around for a while now (dating back to Britian in 1843, but how does a biblical world view look at this.  Show we differentiate between punishment and guilt in these cases rather than just denying the moral responsibility of individuals.  In other words, is the insanity defense itself morally justified?  Can the very idea of a criminal prosecution not require the moral understanding that human beings are responsible for their actions?  Does the entire logic of the law collapse without an understanding that we are all responsible?  

In the article Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity?, Dr. Molher mentions the late Karl Menninger, a well-known psychiatrist, argued that the insanity defense should be abolished because it undermined the notion of individual responsibility. I agree with his conclusion that courts must be allowed considerable latitude in the application of penalties, treatments, and other available options. But finding a guilty person "not guilty by reason of insanity" is an act of moral evasion--and we all know it.

Read this article: Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity?

No comments:

Post a Comment