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Question 1.

Explain the insanity defense. The courts use multiple tests to determine whether a person was insane at the time of the crime. Identify and explain two of these tests.

Question 2.

Identify and explain three categories of syndrome defenses, creative excuses. Provide an example of a defense within each category.
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Criminal Law (Justice Series)
Edition: 2nd
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Answer 1

The insanity defense examines the defendant's mental state at the time of the crime to determine if he or she is criminally responsible. The insanity defense is a legal concept, so just because someone may be medically diagnosed as insane, he or she may not succeed with an insanity defense. The text identifies five tests used to determine whether a person was insane at the time of the crime. Student answers will vary but students should pick from the following: (1) the M'Naghten test, (2) the "irresistible impulse" test, (3) the Model Penal Code test, (4) the product test, and (5) the federal test. States can choose their own tests, combine two or more tests to suit their needs, or even have no insanity defense at all. The M'Naghten Test is an insanity test that focuses on the defendant's ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct based on a mental disease or defect. The irresistible impulse test is an insanity test that focuses on the defendant's ability to conform his conduct to the law. The Model Penal Code uses the following language for its insanity test: "A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality [wrongfulness] of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law." The product test is an insanity test that determines whether the criminal activity is the product of a mental disease or defect. Federal law treats insanity as a defense. This definition of insanity also parallels some of the others introduced here. For example, it retains the Model Penal Code's use of the word appreciate. However, it adds the word severe to the equation, possibly making it more difficult for a federal defendant to succeed with an insanity defense.

Answer 2

Excuses based on physiology, excuses based on psychology, and sociological excuses. Physiology excuses are those that seek to biological explanations for illegal behavior. One excuse based on physiology concerns the presence of an extra Y chromosome. Another example would be premenstrual dysphoric disorder. Excuses based on psychology raise creative claims of psychological causation and defense. Examples include brainwashing, mob-mentality and post-traumatic stress disorder. Sociological excuses include those that claim his or her background or surroundings contributed to a decision to break the law. One such defense is urban psychosis. Some have others raised urban survival syndrome and black rage.
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