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Lecture 4

CRMJ 254 Lecture 4: CRMJ 254 Lecture 4

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Criminal Justice
CRMJ 254

CRMJ 254 Lecture 4 Introduction to Criminal Justice Affirmative Defenses: Self-Defense and Insanity • Affirmative Defenses o Given that actus reus and mens rea must be present for us to accept that ▪ A crime has been committed ▪ The accused is responsible o The accused can base a defense on the absence of these factors o Assuming that ▪ Charges have been filed • The state believes that a crime has occurred ▪ Defendant is preparing a defense strategy for trial • Although the trial may never actually take place o Very risky defenses ▪ Defendant is admitting the act, but still denying responsibility ▪ Places burden onto the defendant at trial • Must convince court that although he did the act o He lacked criminal intent so cannot be blameworthy o What he did was excusable or justifiable • Absence of Actus Reus o “I didn’t do it” o Alibi defense • Absence of Mens Rea o Accident o Affirmative defenses ▪ “I did it, but what I did should be considered excusable or justifiable because I lacked mens rea” ▪ The circumstances were such that the accused did not possess or could not form criminal intent o Self-defense • Self-Defense o Defendant claims lack of mens rea because : ▪ Was simply acting to protect self or others from harm (did not possess true criminal intent) o Use of force to protect self or others from immediate harm ▪ True criminal intent was not present; that only goal was self-preservation o Jurisdictions vary slightly in their standards of what is considered legal use of self-defense o Defendant believes his/her actions were justifiable o Necessary elements : ▪ Protecting self (or others) from immediate danger ▪ Response was reasonable given the nature of the threat • Was the accused’s perception of the situation reasonable? ▪ Only use amount of force necessary to defend self (or another) ▪ Protecting self (or others) from unlawful use of force ▪ “Retreat rule” usually applies • “Castle exception” to retreat rule • “Stand your ground” laws • Insanity o Mentally ill  legally insane o Defendant was unable to form criminal intent because he was legally insane at the time of the crime o Implies that the person has a chronic illness that will remain after the fact o Controversial, and often misunderstood, defense o Purely a legal construct - not a psychiatric or medical diagnosis o Different from “diminished capacity” ▪ “Legal insanity” defense  lessened degree of responsibility • Might remove element of premeditation • Might result in conviction of lesser crime • Because of physical, psychological, or emotional factors, accused could not fully comprehend the nature of his/her act • Might be attempted if legal insanity is not an option (no evidence of serious or chronic mental health condition at the time of the crime)f o “Temporary insanity” defense is no longer accepted as a defense in court o Some criminal defendants with serious mental health issues refuse the insanity defense ▪ David Berkowtiz “Son of Sam” • Pleaded guilty rather than use insanity defense at trial ▪ Ted Kaczynski “Unabomber” • Pleaded guilty right before start of trial (attorneys were going to argue “diminished capacity” instead of insanity at trial, as he denied he was mentally ill” o Trials involving the insanity defense become a “battle of the expert witnesses” o Most defendants who attempt the insanity defense at the trail will be unsuccessful ▪ If sentenced to prison, will often not receive any mental health treatment while incarcerated ▪ Difficult to “fake” legal insanity • Difficulties with Insanity Defenses o Must find expert witnesses o Standards of legal insanity are vague, but very tough o Jurors or judge may not want to risk the defendant being released back into society o Ex. Richard Trenton Chase ▪ “Vampire Killer of Sacramento” ▪ Paranoid schizophrenia ▪ Chose his victims based on those with their doors unlocked ▪ Cannibalized and exsanguinated victims ▪ Plead insanity and aided in his own defense ▪ Convicted and sentenced to death o Ex. James Holmes ▪ Mass murder at a movie theater - 12 people killed, 70 injured ▪ Detonated smoke bombs and tear gas and opened fire ▪ Sentenced to multiple life sentences and spared the death penalty ▪ Colorado - legal insanity • 1) Individual is “diseased of defective in mind o Presence of mental illness (almost always psychotic thought disorder) o Condition must “grossly and demonstrably impair a person’s perception of understanding of reality” • 2) Individual must have the “diseased or defective” mind at the time of the crime • 3) Because of this significant mental illness ( the “diseased or
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