One morning housewife Nancy kills her husband Norman. She cleans the crime scene and buries his body in the woods at night. When the police investigate Norman's disappearance, Nancy claims that he...

One morning housewife Nancy kills her husband Norman. She cleans the crime scene and buries his body in the woods at night. When the police investigate Norman's disappearance, Nancy claims that he left a week ago. The police learn from neighbors that Nancy was spotted burying something in the woods (the neighbor's property). They find Norman's body and return to Nancy. They read her her rights and Nancy confesses that she killed Norman because the dog told her told her that Norman was a bad man and that it was not illegal to kill bad men; he told her to kill Norman.

At trial, Nancy pleads legal insanity. An expert testifies that Nancy was suffering from a mental disease, while the prosecution calls in an expert who disagrees. This jurisdiction follows the M'Naghten rule.

You are the judge. How would you rule? Explain your ruling completely. In doing so explain why the defendant's actions do or do not meet the elements of the insanity defense.

Asked on by engine21

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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As a judge in this case, I would rule that Nancy was guilty.  I would rule that she did not qualify to be acquitted by reason of insanity under the M’Naghten rule.  My reasoning for this is that it is very hard to say that Nancy did not know that what she was doing was wrong.

The M’Naghten rule says that a defendant is presumed to be sane unless the defense can prove that she is insane.  It says that a person is insane if they do not know what they are doing or they do not know that what they are doing is wrong.  I do not see how the defense has proven this by saying that the dog told Nancy to kill Norman.

First, we know that Nancy knew that hitting Norman with the axe could kill him.  She says that the dog told her to kill, at which point she hit him with the axe.  If that is the case, she clearly meant to kill him.  That brings us to the question of whether she knew that it was wrong to kill Norman.  Here, I would turn to Nancy’s actions after she killed Norman.  If Nancy did not think killing Norman was wrong, she would not have gone to such lengths to hide the fact that she had killed him.  She might have simply thrown his body in the trash like I might throw away a mouse that I killed in my house.  If you do not think what you have done is wrong, you will not cover up the fact that you have done it.  Therefore, I would have to conclude that Nancy knew that it was wrong to kill Norman, making her ineligible to use the insanity defense under the M’Naghten rule.

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