When Does Insanity Count As A Criminal Defense? (US Law)

by jenkurtz02 on June 27, 2012

Aaron H. Thomas, a man accused of rape in the East Coast is awaiting his 20day trial beginning July 31, 2012. Ronald Fahy, his defense attorney, made it clear in a court filing that his client will use insanity as a defense against the alleged accusation. During the trial, a mental health expert will be called to testify.

Thomas arrested in 2011 in New Haven, CT and was charged of 17 assaults between the years 1997 and 2009. His first trial in Prince William involved his alleged attack on 3 teenage girls on a Halloween night in 2009. According to the suspect, he has an alternate personality called Erwin who is to blame for the offenses committed.

Last April, Thomas has been indicted with eight charges including 2 counts of rape. Accordingly, his attorneys claim that the accused is incompetent to face trial due to his inadequacy to understand the proceedings set against him. In fact, he mutilated his body in an attempt to stop meeting with his lawyers. It is also claimed that Thomas has experienced several visual and auditory hallucinations.

Prosecutors say that Thomas has been found competent and was only pretending to have severe mental health issues. This was attested by an initial evaluation on his mental condition. The doctor’s report mentioned that Thomas was only exaggerating and feigning mental symptoms in an effort to avoid prosecution.

Insanity As A Defense Against Criminal Charges

The use of insanity as a defense for criminal accusations has been used for many years. However, the standard for the use of insanity as a defense has continued to change throughout the history of the judiciary. In the past, the standard was not as strict and the interpretation on the term “insane” was too lenient. Today, the standard has become more strict thanks to the influence of psychology and the development of psychiatric evaluation.

A person who is found out to be insane during the commitment of the felony is not considered responsible for his criminal offense. In order to become a ground for defense, it must be proven that the accused was not able to act with intent when he committed such conduct. Having a mental disorder does not necessarily constitute legal insanity. It is the burden of the defendant to prove with clear evidence that he was not in a proper mental state when he committed the crime.

The use of insanity as a criminal defense in today’s justice system originated in 1843 with the case of Daniel M’Naghten. He attempted to assassinate the British prime minister, but was acquitted of the crime because he was found insane when the crime was committed. The result of the trial outraged the public, but because of this case, a stricter definition was created for the term “legal insanity”. This is now called the M’Naghten Rule. Under this rule, a person can only be considered legally insane when he cannot appreciate his surroundings due to a powerful mental delusion.

Final Word

On the case of Aaron Thomas, he can only be acquitted of the crimes he committed when he is pronounced legally insane during the commitment of the felonies.

The story above is a fairly extreme on but it is imperative for anyone that is accused of a crime to find a competent attorney that understands how to handle the case and charges faced by the accused. This can be done by performing an internet search for words related to the charge in addition to the name of the city or state where I live. For instance, if I was charged with shoplifting in Massachusetts, I might search for “Shoplifting Attorney Massachusetts”. This could help find a good attorney’s website like where I could learn more about shoplifting charges. If you are ever charged with a crime, be sure to find good representation to help you understand what you are up against.




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