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Cases in which the prisoner has been
held to be insane
876 held not to be insane
874 Cases of insanity caused by intoxication 878 Cases in which the prisoner has been
The defence of insanity is one involving great difficulties of various kinds, and the rules which have occasionally been laid down by the judges, with regard to the nature and degree of aberration of mind which will excuse a person from punishment, are by no means consistent with each other, or as it should seem, with correct principle (1). That principle appears to be well laid down in the following passage.
To amount to a complete bar of punishment, either at the time of *committing the offence, or of the trial, the insanity must have [ *874 ) been of such a kind as entirely to deprive the prisoner of the use of reason, as applied to the act in question, and the knowledge that he was doing wrong in committing it. If, though somewhat deranged, he is yet able to distinguish right from wrong, in his own case, and to know that he was doing wrong in the act which he committed, he is liable to the full punishment of his criminal acts. Alison's Princ. Crim. Law. Scotl. 645, 654.
The onus of proving the defence of insanity, or in the case of lunacy, of showing that the offence was committed when the prisoner was in a state of lunacy, lies upon the prisoner. See Alison's Princ. Crim. Law of Scotl. 659.
For the purpose of proving insanity, the opinion of a person possessing medical skill is admissible. Wright's case ; Russ. and Ry. 456 (a); ante,
The disposal of persons found to be insane at the time of the offence committed, is regulated by the statute 39 and 40 Geo. 3, c. 94, ante,
The mode of arraignment and trial of such persons has also been stated, ante, p. 211.
Cases in which the prisoner has been held not to be insane.] In the following cases, the defence of insanity was set up, but without effect, and the prisoners were convicted. The prisoner was indicted for shooting at Lord Onslow. It appeared that he was to a certain extent deranged, and had misconceived the conduct of Lord Onslow, but he had formed a regular design to shoot bim, and prepared the means of effecting it. Tracy, J., observed, that the defence of insanity must be clearly made out; that it is not every idle or frantic humor of a man, or something unaccountable in his actions, which will show hiin to be such a madman as to exempt him from punishment; but that where a man is totally deprived of bis understanding and memory, and does not know what he is doing
(1) 1 Wheeler's C. C. 48. Jackson r. Van Dusen, 5 Johns. 158.
(a) 1 Eng. C. C. 456.
any more than an infant, a brute, or a wild beast, he will be properly exempted from punishment. Arnold's case, Collinson on Lunacy, 475; How. St. Tr. 764, 765. The doctrine of the learned judge in this case, inay perhaps, be thought to be carried too far, for if the prisoner, in cormitting the act, is deprived of the power of distinguishing between rigti and wrong with relation to that act, it does not appear to be necessary that he should not know what he is doing. Vide post.
Lord Ferrers was tried before the House of Lords for the murder of bus steward. It was proved that he was occasionally insane, and fancied tris steward to be in the interest of certain supposed enemies. The steward being in the parlor with him, he ordered him to go down on his knees, and shot him with a pistol, and then directed his servants to put him to bed. He afterwards sent for a surgeon, but declared he was not sorry, and that it was a premeditated act; and he would have dragged the steward out of bed, had he not confessed himself a villain. Many witnesses stated ( *975 ] that they considered *bim insane, and it appeared that several of his relations had been confined as lunatics. It was contended for the prosecution, that the complete possession of reason was not necessary in order to render a man answerable for his acts; it was sufficient if he could discriminate between good and evil. The peers unanimously found his lordship guilty. Earl Ferrer's case, 19 How. St. Tr. 986.
The prisoner was indicted for shooting at and wounding W. B., and the defence was insanity, arising from epilepsy. He had been attacked with a fit on the 9th July, 1811; and was brought home apparently lifeless. A great alteration had been produced in his conduct, and it was necessary to watch him, lest he should destroy himself. Mr. Warburton, the keeper of a lunatic asylum, said that in insanity caused by epilepsy, the patient often imbibed violent antipathies against his dearest friends, for causes wholly imaginary, which no persuasion could remove, though rational on other topics. He had no doubt of the insanity of the prisoner. A commission of lunacy was produced, dated 17th June, 1812, with a finding that the prisoner had been insane from the 30th March. (The date of the offence committed does not appear in the report.] Le Blanc, J. concluded his suinming up, by observing, that it was for the jury to determine whether the prisoner, when he committed the offence with which he stood charged, was capable of distinguishing between right and wrong, or under the influence of any illusion in respect of the prosecutor, which rendered his mind at the moment insensible of the nature of the act which he was about to commit, since in that case he would not be legally responsible for his conduct. On the other hand, provided they should be of opinion that when he committed the offence he was capable of distinguishing right from wrong, and not under the influence of such an illusion as disabled him from discovering that he was doing a wrong act, he would be answerable to the justice of the country, and guilty in the eye of the law. The jury, after considerable deliberation, pronounced the prisoner guilty. Bowler's case, Collinson on Lunacy, 673, (n.)
The prisoner was indicted for adhering to the king's enemies. His defence was insanity. He had been accounted from a child a person of weak intellect, so that it surprised many that he had been accepted as a soldier. Considerable .deliberation and reason, however, were displayed by him in entering the French service, and he stated to a coinrade that it was much more agreeable to be at liberty, and have plenty of money,
than to remain confined in a dungeon. · The attorney-general in reply, said, that before the offence could have any weight in rebutting a charge so clearly made out, the jury must be satisfied that at the time the offence was comunitted, the prisoner did not really know right from wrong. He was convicted. Parker's caşe, Collinson on Lunacy, 477.
The direction of Mansfield, C. J.; to the jury in Bellingham's case, seems not altogether in accordance with the correct rules on the subject of a prisoner's insanity. He said that in order to support such a defence, it ought to be proved by the most distinct and unquestionable evidence, .. that the prisoner was incapable of judging between *right and [ *876 ] wrong; that in fact, it must be proved beyond all doubt, that at the time he committed the act he did not consider thut murder was a crime against the laws of God and nature, and that there was no other proof of insanity which would excuse murder or any other crime. That in the species of madness called lunacy, where persons are subject to temporary paroxyms, in which they are guilty of acts of extravagance, such persons committing crimes when they are not affected by the malady, would be answerable to justice, and that so long as they could distinguish good from evil, they would be answerable for their conduct; and that in the species of insanity in which the patient fancies the existence of injury, and seeks an opportunity of gratifying revenge by some hostile act, if such person be capable in other respects, of distinguishing between right and wrong, there would be no excuse for any act of atrocity which he might commit under this description of derangement. The prisoner was found guilty and executed. Bellingham's case, 1 Collinson on Lunacy, 636 ; Shelford on Lunatics, 462; see Offord's case, 5 C. and P. 168 (a). The above direction does not appear to make à sufficient allowance for the incapacity of judging between right and wrong upon the very matter in question, as in all cases of monomania. The following observations of an eminent writer on the criminal law of Scotland, are applicable to the subject. Although a prisoner understands perfectly the distinction between right and wrong, yet if he labors, as is generally the case, under an illusion and deception in his own particular case, and is incapable of applying it correctly to his own conduct, he is in that state of mental. aberration which renders him not criminally answerable for his actions. For example ; a mad person may be perfectly aware that murder is a crime, and will admit that, if pressed on the subject; still he may conceive that a homicide he has committed was nowise blameable, because the deceased had engaged in a conspiracy, with others, against his own life, or was his mortal enemy, who had wounded him in his dearest interests, or was the devil incarnate, whom it was the duty of every good christian to meet with weapons of carnal warfare. Alison's Princ. Crim. Law Scotl. 645, citing 1 Hume, 37, 38. . And see the observations on Bellingham's case, Alison, 658.
It has been justly observed that the plea of insanity must be received with much more diffidence in cases proceeding from the desire of gain, as theft, swindling, or forgery, which generally require some art and skill for their completion, and argue a sense of the advantage of acquiring other people's property. On a charge of horse-stealing, it was alleged that the prisoner was insane, but as it appeared that he had stolen the horse
(a) Eng. Com. L. Rep. xxiy. 259.
in the night, conducted himself prudently in the adventure, and ridder straight by an unfrequented road to a distance, sold it, and taken a bill for the price, the defence was overruled. Ilenderson's case, Alison's Princ. Crim. Law Scotl. 655, 656.
Cases in which the prisoner has been held to be insane.) James Hadfield was tried in the Court of K. B. in the year 1800, on an indictmeot for high treason, in shooting at the king in Drury-lane theatre, and the [ *877) defence made for the prisoner was, insanity. It was *proved that he had been a private soldier in a dragoon regiment, and, in the year 1793. received many severe wounds in battle, near Lisle, which had caused partial derangement of mind, and he had been dismissed from the army on account of insanity. Since his return to this country he had been annually out of his mind from the beginning of spring to the end of the dog. days, and had been under confinement as a lunatic. When affected by his disorder, he imagined himself to hold intercourse with God: sometimes called himself God, or Jesus Christ, and used other expressions of the most irreligious and blasphemous kind, and also committed acts of tbe greatest extravagance; but at other times he appeared to be rational, and discovered no symptom of mental incapacity or disorder. On the 14th May preceding the commission of the act in question, bis mind was very much disordered, and he used many blasphemous expressions. At one or two o'clock on the following morning, he suddenly jumped out of bed, and, alluding to his child, a boy of eight months old, of whom he was usually remarkably fond, said he was about to dash his brains out against the bed-post, and that God had ordered him to do so; and, upon his wife screaming and his friends coming in, he ran into a cupboard and declared he would lie there, it should be his bed, and God had said so; and when doing this, having overset some water, he said he had lost a grcat deal of blood. On the same and the following day he used many incoherent and blasphemous expressions. On the morning of the 15th May he seemed worse, said that he had seen God in the night, that the coach was waiting, and that he had been to dine with the king. He spoke very highly of the king, the royal family, and particularly of the Duke of York. He then went to his master's workshop, whence he returned to dinner at two, but said that he stood in no need of meat and could live without it. He asked for tea between three and four o'clock, and talked of being made a member of the society of odd fellows; and, after repeating his irreligious expressions, went out and repaired to the theatre. On the part of the crown it was proved that he had sat in his place in the theatre nearly three quarters of an hour before the king entered: that, at the moment when the audience rose, on bis Majesty's entering his box, he got up above the rest, and, presenting a pistol loaded with slugs, fired it at tl:e king's person, and then let it drop; that, when he fired, his situatioa appeared favorable for taking aim, for he was standing upon the second seat from the orchestra, in the pit; and he took a deliberate aim, by looking down the barrel as a man usually does when taking aim. On his apprehension, amongst other expressions he said that he knew perfectly well his life was forfeited ; that he was tired of life, and regretted nothing but the fate of a woman who was his wife, and would be his wife a few day's longer, he supposed. These words he spoke calmly, and without any apparent derangement; and, with equal
calmness, repeated that he was tired of life, and said that his plan was to get rid of it by other means, le did not intend any thing against the life of the king, he knew the attempt only would answer his purpose. *The counsel for the prisoner put the case as one of a species [ *878 )
insanity in the nature of a morbid delusion of the intellect, and admitted that it was necessary for the jury to be satisfied that the act in question was the immediate unqualified offspring of the disease. Lord Kenyon, C. J., held, that as the prisoner was deranged immediately before the offence was committed, it was improbable that he had recovered his senses in the interim, and although, were they to run into nicety, proof might be demanded of his insanity at the precise moment when the act was committed, yet, there being no reason for believing the prisoner to have been at that period a rational and accountable being, he ought to be acquitted, and was acquitted accordingly. Hadfield's case, Collinson on Lunacy, 480, 1 Russell, 11.
The prisoner was indicted for setting fire to the cathedral church of York. The defence was that he was insane. It was proved that he was much under the influence of dreams, and in court he gave an incoherent account of a dream that had induced him to commit the act, a voice commanding him to destroy the cathedral on account of the misconduct of the clergy. Several medical witnesses stated their opinions that he was insane, and that, when laboring under his delusion, he could not distinguish right from wrong. One surgeon said that such persons, though incapable on a particular subject of distinguishing right from wrong, seek to avoid the danger consequent upon ther actions, and that they frequently run away and display great cunning in escaping punishment. The jury acquitted the prisoner on the ground of insanity. Martin's case, Shelford on Lunacy, 465; Annual Register, vol. 71, p. 301.
Cases of insanity caused by intoxication.] Intoxication is no excuse for the commission of crime. The prisoner, after a paroxysm of drunkenness, rose in the middle of the night, and cut the throats of his father and mother, ravished the servant-maid in her sleep, and afterwards murdered her. Notwithstanding the fact of his drunkenness he was tried and executed for these offences. Dey's case, 3 Paris and Fonbl. M. J. 140 (n.) There are many men, it is said in an able work on Medical Jurisprudence, soldiers who have been severely wounded in the head, especially, who well know that excess makes them mad; but if such persons wilfully deprive themselves of reason, they ought not to be excused one crime by the voluntary perpetration of another. 3 Paris and Fonbl. M. J. 140. But if, by the long practice of intoxication, an habitual or fixed insanity is caused, although this madness was contracted voluntarily, yet the party is in the same situation with regard to crimes, as if it had been contracted involuntarily at first, and is not punishable (1). 1 Hale, P. C. 32.
Though voluntary drunkenness cannot excuse from the commission of crime, yet where, as upon a charge of murder, the question is, whether an act was premeditated, or done only from sudden heat and impulse, the fact of the party being intoxicated has been held to be a circumstance
(1) U. S. o. Drew, 5 Mason, 28. 3 American Jurist, 5. Burnet v. State, Mason and Yerger, 133. Cornwell 0. The State, Id. 147.