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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

394                                             MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

was much interested in the rumour, was a disciple of Mr. Stead, took great interest in
the Criminal Law Amendment Act, and appears to have allowed her attention to be
absorbed by these subjects until she became even more crazy than the general run of
the nasty-minded apostles of purity. She purchased a revolver and practised with it.
She wrote to the deceased expressing her regret for the mistaken attitude she had
adopted towards him, and asking him to meet her in the parish school-room in the
presence of witnesses, and shake hands as a token of forgiveness. The meeting took
place and then, asking the deceased to take a good look at the picture on the wall she
placed a revolver to the back of his head and shot him dead. Evidence was given of
various eccentricities hi the previous conduct of the prisoner, and Dr. Davies, Superin-
tendent of the Kent County Asylum, and Dr. Hoare, Surgeon to the Maidstone Gaol,
in which the prisoner had been detained pending her trial, stated that in their opinion
the prisoner was under the hallucination that she was ordered to shoot the man. The
jury returned a verdict of " Guilty but insane ".

6. Want of Accomplices.—An insane person has no accomplice in the
criminal act. Lunatics in mental hospitals never conspire to escape or kill
the Superintendent or his assistant.

English Law of the criminal responsibility of the insane is based on the
answers given by fourteen Judges in 1843 to the following hypothetical
questions put to them by the House of Lords in connection with the cele-
brated case of McNaughten who, labouring under a delusion of persecution,
shot Mr. Drummond, the Private Secretary of Sir Robert Peel, at Charing
Cross : —

Question I,—"What is the law respecting alleged crimes committed by persons
afflicted with insane delusions in respect of one or more particular subjects or persons,
as, for instance, where, at the time of the commission of the alleged crime, the accused
knew he was acting contrary to law, but did the act complained of, with a view, under
the influence of insane delusion, of redressing or revenging some supposed grievance
or injury or of producing some supposed public benefit ? "

Answer I.—"Assuming that Your Lordships' inquiries are confined to those persons
who labour under such partial delusions only, and are not in other respects insane, we
are of opinion that (notwithstanding the accused did the act complained of with a view,
under the influence of insane delusion, of redressing or revenging some supposed griev-
ance or injury, or of producing some public benefit) he is nevertheless punishable,
according to the nature of the crime committed, if he knew at the time of committing
such crime that he was acting contrary to law, by which expression we understand
Your Lordships to mean the law of the land."

Question II.—" What are the proper questions to be submitted to the jury when a
person alleged to be afflicted with insane delusions respecting one or more particular
subjects or persons, is charged with the commission of a crime (murder, for example),
and insanity is set up as a defence ? "

Question III.—" In what terms ought the question to be left to the jury as to the
prisoner's state of mind at the time when the act was committed ? "

Answers II and III.—"As these two questions appear to us to be more conveniently
answered together, we submit our opinion to be that the jury ought to be told in all
cases that every man is presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason
to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; that
to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the
time of committing the act, the accused was labouring under such a defect of reason,
from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing,
or, if he did know it, that he did not know that he was doing what was wrong. The
mode of putting the latter part of the question to the jury on these occasions has gene-
rally been, whether the accused at the time of doing the act knew the difference between
right and wrong ; which mode, though rarely, if ever, leading to any mistake with the
jury, is not, we conceive, so accurate when put generally and in the abstract as when put
with reference to the party's knowledge of right and wrong in respect to the very act
with which he is charged. If the question were to be put as to the knowledge of the
accused, solely and exclusively with reference to the law of the land, it might tend to
confound the jury by inducing them to believe that an actual knowledge of the law
of the land was essential in order to lead to a conviction; whereas the law is adminis-
tered on the principle that everyone must be taken conclusively to kno^W it without
proof that he does know it. If the accused was conscious that the act was one which
he ought not to do, and if that act was at the same time contrary to the law of the land,
he is punishable. The usual course, therefore, has been to le'ave the question to the
jury, whether the accused had a sufficient degree of reason to know that he was doing
an act that was wrong; and this course we think is correct, accompanied with such
observations and corrections as the circumstances of each particular case may require/'