A derangement of the mind



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zMia Jauregui

Writing 10

Ms. Ayik

12 February 2014

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

“A derangement of the mind,” or the definition of insanity has been warped by criminals to evade imprisonment. Criminals are able to plead not guilty due to insanity, which places them in psychiatric care, rather than prison. Homicidal people are given the chance to escape the dooms of prison. Bertram Porter murdered his 11-month-old child and claimed insanity due to his state of mind during the crime. Porter was found not guilty and, after psychiatric care, walked free. Jeffery Dahmer, an infamous serial killer, pleaded not guilty due to insanity, although, he was still convicted, a serious problem has risen in the legal system. Criminals are taking advantage of the ability to claim insanity, when in fact some are not insane by definition, rather they believe they are insane do to the outrageous crimes they commit. Although, some do fit the definition, what draws the line between a sentence to a psychiatric hospital or prison? Psychologists believe that they are able to detect symptoms of insanity in criminals and if they are fabricating their defense to avoid a harsher sentence. But criminals who commit heinous acts should not be exempt from a prison sentence because they claim insanity during the time of the crime, rather the person should be responsible for their actions whether they are insane or not.

Bertram Porter murdered his own baby due to a martial dispute and dodged a prison sentence. His plan was to feed rat poison to his 11-month-old son and then take the poison himself, but the police came before he was able to kill himself. According to reports “he was in an emotional state, not sleeping well, taking quantities of pain killers and caffeine,” but that does not mean he was insane during the murder. He had the choice of taking painkillers, which according to Psychology Today “voluntary intoxication is excluded” in regards to an insanity trial. Although drugs do alter ones mind he was aware that he was entering a different state of mind, so he should have known he wasn’t thinking logically. Proving if he was actually unaware of his actions is difficult, but by committing such a drastic crime it seems he must have known the consequences of his actions. The term insanity should not be stretched to such lengths to allow a criminal to walk free. If it is so easy for ones mind to be altered then any person could be insane at any moment, which gives reason for any crime. Insane means derangement of mind, not a briefly altered mind set that gives reason to harm others.

Jeffery Dahmer—known for necrophilia and cannibalism—was charged with the murder of 15 men and pleaded not guilty due to insanity. One could take the information on Dahmer’s case and conclude that only a person who is out of their mind could commit such acts. But at the end of the trial Dahmer was found sane and guilty of the crimes he committed. He was given 15 life sentences, or 957 years in prison. The victim’s lawyers reviewed Dahmer’s confession where Dahmer claimed, “it's hard for me to believe that a human being could have done what I've done, but I know that I did it," and with this confession, alone, Dahmer proves to the jury that he is in fact sane because he was aware of his actions while committing the crimes. Dahmer admitted this after his arrest before the trial, but he still made his plead of not guilty. Dahmer is an example of a murderer who took the term insanity and stretched its meaning in order to benefit him, when he in fact did not have an altered state of mind while committing the crimes. Ultimately, what is at stake here is the misuse insanity in a way that benefits criminals. Therefore, criminals should only be judged for their actions, unless there is some unordinary circumstance.



Psychologists recognize that insanity is used loosely among court cases, but they claim that they are able to do thorough analysis on a criminal before releasing a verdict on their state of mind. They look for inconsistencies in the criminal’s personality to see whether they are faking insanity. They also look to see if criminals say something far fetched if they look around to see if people noticed how crazy they sounded. Although, psychologists are professionals, there seems to be different meanings of insanity in different cases. When used in a court a steady meaning needs to be used, which is an alteration of ones state of mind, while evidence also needs to be provided as proof to the court.

The definition of insanity has been used in court in inappropriate ways in order to give criminals the ability to dodge conviction. The term has been twisted in order for criminals to believe they are insane because of the heinous crimes they committed, when in fact some of them were conscious of their actions, and choose to commit the crimes. Jeffery Dahmer made himself believe he was insane due to the pressure of wanting to be freed, but he had already confessed that he was aware of his actions. Judging whether or not a person is insane is hard to do because it raises the question of who actually knows when a person is not in their normal state of mind. Bertram Porter was released based off of his consumption of painkillers, when in fact the jury is not supposed to take into consideration the use of substances that a person took by choice. Porter also claimed he was sleep deprived, which doesn’t seem like enough reason to murder his son. Psychologists can test and assess certain mental diseases, but with insanity one has to base their opinion off of the criminals defense, evidence, and personality. Some cases can lack the evidence needed to prove that the person sane during the act. It seems that the courts should abolish the term insanity because it has been shifted into meaning doing something so outrageous that the person must be insane. The courts should judge a case purely on the actions of a person and not on the altercation of ones mind because insanity is a difficult term to prove with evidence.

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