I was reading about the two types on insanity pleas, known as NGBI and GBMI. For example, a good excerpt is here on Google Books.

However, something very obvious is bothering me:

How can you have a legal system where on one hand we consider insane people not guilty of their crimes and on the other say that they can be guilty? Isn't it a contradiction?

If insanity is a valid "excuse" to escape responsibility for a crime, then why isn't it always a valid excuse? Why would we allow insane people then to be found guilty? We already acknowledge in our legal system that insane people are not at fault.

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    Exactly which legal system are you talking about? The book seems to be about state law in the US, but that is effectively 50 separate legal systems. Is there really a single state that allows both pleas? – Nate Eldredge Aug 21 '15 at 14:06
  • @NateEldredge: Exactly my question. I know that England and Wales went from "Guilty but insane" to "Not guilty by reason of insanity"/ – Martin Bonner supports Monica Aug 29 '16 at 15:31
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    In English law you can be found guilty even though you are insane and, amongst other things, unable to stand trial. Also, if you (for example) insanely believe that the Devil has told you to kill someone, you are still guilty (because it would be a crime, even if what you believed were true) so not all forms of insanity will absolve you of guilt even if they existed at the time. – Francis Davey Dec 27 '17 at 13:05

There is a clinical difference between insane and mentally ill.

An insane person is "so irrational in their behavior, or so unable to control it - so unlike 'us'" that they are not criminally liable (from earlier in the chapter).

Mental illness is "substantial disorder of thought or mood that substantially impairs judgement ..." (from near your link).

Clearly this is a subtle clinical distinction and will hinge on the expert evidence and the applicable law.

  • So you're saying that GBMI is less insane than NGRI? – CodyBugstein Aug 21 '15 at 14:40
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    Actually, I'm saying insane is not equal to mentally ill just like cancer is not equal to heart disease. – Dale M Aug 21 '15 at 21:30

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