HIST 3850 Lecture Notes - Passbook, Mental Disorder, Only Child
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MURDER AND OTHER CRIMES IN THE 20TH CENTURY
LECTURE: NOVEMBER 9TH 2012
TOPIC: BROWN VS. MISSISSIPPI
➔“Under what circumstances should judges and juries, when confronted with a defendant who is
said to be mentally ill, turn this individual over, from the criminal justice system, to the mental
◦Those who commit crimes technically have some sort of mental health issue/disorder
◦If they committed the crime they should still be punished whether they are mentally ill or
◦Should the law step back and let medicine take over? → extreme view
◦Who should be allowed this option? In terms of excusing an offender for being mentally ill.
◦Each state has different rules in terms of this topic. In all these states the procedure traces
back to England to a man named Daniel M'Naughton (1843)
◦Mental illness in the past was said to be tied to possession and witch craft etc
➔Daniel M'Naughton (1843)
➔Charles Guiteau (1881)
➔Valentine Shortis (1896)
➔Criminal insanity goes back to the Greeks like Homer and Plato.
◦They distinguished man from other animals in terms of reason.
◦They focused on the place of reason in legal codes which could only extend to those who
could understand and abide by it.
◦Being human is simply not enough.
◦These individuals would be treated like children. This lasted till the 16th century.
◦They felt that those with mental issues should be excluded from law and from society.
◦They were reasoning the place in society for the mentally ill.
➔Eastern Europeans viewed mental illness as a physical issue with an organic basis.
➔Some felt that the mentally ill were passed because of a past sin.
➔Witches were not considered victims. Witch craft trials → called on to examine accused. They
had to explain their nature.
➔1800's → English Legal writers started to tackle the meaning of criminal insanity
➔Sir Edward Coke, (1552-1634)
◦There are “those who sometimes had understanding, and sometimes did not”
◦Such a state might be the result of birth or a later condition brought about by illness or an
◦Being able to carry out a planned crime showed that someone could not be insane or
➔Sir Matthew Hale (1609-1676)
◦He held an absolute view.
◦Stated to be judged as insane one had to be entirely lacking reason.
◦Demystifying insanity in the British courts.
◦Legal system started to use procedural safe guards for those considered insane.
◦Provision of medical specialists to the guide the jury in cases like this → he was criticized
➔20 January, 1843
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◦Daniel M'Naughton shoots Edmund Drummond (private secretary to the Prime Minister)
from behind when he was walking
◦Drummond dies from his wounds 4 days.
◦Drummond had made his way home after this, did not seem very wounded, doctor came to
visit and predicted a full recovery. Then the next morning he had issues breathing.
Discovered his rib was shattered and became infected after doing a second examination.
◦Shooter immediately arrested. Refused to answer questions. When he was searched they
found a bank book of Daniel M'Naughton. They went back to the apartment and found
percussion caps (part of assembling a gun).
◦Some claim to have seem Daniel loitering around the crime scene area.
◦He had a very cool and collective demeanor (how could he be insane then?). What was his
reasoning for doing so?
◦He stated “He will not destroy my peace of mind any longer”
◦Daniel made one statement in terms of his motives (1813-1865)
▪“The Tories in my native city have compelled me to do this. They followed me to
France, into Scotland, and all over England. In fact, they follow me wherever I
go...They accused me of crimes of which I am not guilty; they do everything in their
power to harass and prosecute me. In fact they wish to murder me”
▪When they asked who he shot he named a different identity. This could be a sign of
mental illness but to the courts it was mistaken identity.
➔Trial took place in March (The Prosecution Approach)
◦Did he know he was making a violation when he shot the gun? Do you believe he did not
know right from wrong?
◦Evidence → calling in witnesses to show if he was insane
◦The Prosecution stated that they had portrayed M'Naughton as perfectly sane
◦Defendant had shock trauma
◦Concentrated on Daniel's state of mind at the time of the offense
➔Defense attorney Alexander Cockburn
◦Madness is a disease of the body
◦Agreed that Daniel did shoot
◦We need to understand the mental state of Daniel's mind at the time to show he was to
committed the offense
◦This understanding must be based on modern medical science
◦It is stated that the brain consists of two parts. One part is disease and the other is healthy.
◦The fact that he was able to plan and carry out his crime works against saying he is insane
◦Then they called character witnesses who brought a new light to the case –he was gloomy,
more miserable, that he would break out in fits of laughter for no reason, that he felt he was
being followed at night, felt he was being prosecuted by police, Jewish people, Catholics
◦Called on medical witnesses (psychiatrists) who talked to Daniel. Minroe was the
◦Prosecutors were after justice not a guilty verdict **
◦Declared him not guilty on the ground of insanity.
◦Jury very liberally interpreted the law of insanity. Mental illness limited to political aspects
was not enough.
◦You need to be like a wild beast to be considered insane. Daniel was not a wild beast per se.
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