If fully proven, however, self-defense will completely absolve the defendant of the crime that he committed. The unreliability rationale for total exclusion is stronger in principle because courts are always free to reject arguably relevant evidence if it is unreliable or confusing. Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has been offered as a basis for criminal defenses, including insanity, unconsciousness, self-defense, diminished capacity, and sentencing mitigation. Indeed, in some jurisdictions, the extreme emotional disturbance doctrine is explicitly treated as an affirmative defense, but only to homicide, and the defendant bears the burden of persuasion to establish the defense. The diminished actuality defense makes it more difficult to prove that it was murder. View sample criminal law research paper on diminished capacity. Crimes are defined by their elements and the prosecution must prove all these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. Laws vary by state, but any or all mental disorders may satisfy the requirements of a diminished capacity defense. '4 However, in 1983, the Washington Supreme Court reversed this policy, holding instructions on diminished capacity should be given if there was substantial evidence of a defendant's diminished capacity negating his knowledge or On the other hand, the “Diminished Capacity” defense would merely negate a necessary mental element of the crime that is charged. According to PC 29, an expert can testify about the seriousness of the mental illness or mental state at the time of the crime but can’t testify that the mental condition diminished the person’s capacity to form intent. One witness had testified that Dan White was distraught, as manifested by his preoccupation with eating Hostess Twinkies and this was distorted in the media so as to suggest that the Twinkies made him do it. For example: Fred breaks into Barney’s house with the intent of raping Barney’s wife, Betty. 2.2 Relation of Diminished Responsibility To Insanity. The defendant using the mens rea variant of diminished capacity seeks simply to use evidence of mental abnormality to cast reasonable doubt on the presence of a mental state element that is part of the definition of the crime charged. It is a general intent crime because the prosecution only needs to prove that there was willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another. Such people are capable of premeditating, but the mental abnormality evidence simply tends to show that they did not premeditate in fact on this occasion. Justice or fairness seems to require permitting a criminal defendant to use relevant evidence to cast reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case when criminal punishment and stigma are at stake. Examination of case law (e.g., appellate decisions) involving PTSD reveals that when offered as a criminal defense, PTSD has received mixed treatment in the judicial system. An “actually formed” mens rea defense became necessary. The capacity for rationality is a continuum, however, and in principle, responsibility should also be a continuum, allowing for a partial defense. California Penal Code Section 28(a) states that evidence that a defendant suffers from a mental disease, mental defect, or mental disorder is admissible “solely on the issue whether or not the accused actually formed a required specific intent, premeditated, deliberated, or harbored malice aforethought, when a specific intent crime is charged.”. party can use. Although no jurisdiction in the United States and English law contains a formal, generic partial excuse, the theoretical and moral case for such an excuse is strong. The diminished capacity defense is used to limit criminal liability after a defendant has been accused of a crime. 210.3.1(b)) and English ‘‘diminished responsibility,’’ both of which reduce a conviction of murder to the lesser crime of manslaughter; (2) the use of mental abnormality evidence as a mitigating factor at sentencing hearings; and, (3) one interpretation of the common law provocation/passion doctrine, which reduces an intentional killing from murder to voluntary manslaughter. The only possible exception to the observation that mental abnormality seldom negates mens rea is the mental state of premeditation required by many jurisdictions for conviction for intentional murder in the first degree. That may be challenging to prove, especially where witness testimony conflicts. Neither entails the other and distinct legal and policy concerns apply to each. If specific intent or knowledge is an element, evidence of diminished capacity can then be considered in determining whether the defendant had the … 3428. If the diminished capacity defense is allowed in court, it can only be used for specific intent crimes. Nonetheless, a criminal defendant’s right to introduce relevant evidence may be denied for good reason and the U.S. Supreme Court has never held that the Constitution requires the admission of mental abnormality evidence to negate mens rea. Specific intent crimes are crimes where the result was intended. California abolished the defense of diminished capacity after it was used in the trial of Dan White, who was accused of and convicted for killing Harvey Milk and George Moscone. We’ll give a quick explanation of specific vs. general intent below. His wife calls paramedics and the man later dies at the hospital. If Fred successfully mounts a diminished capacity defense, he can be acquitted of the burglary because burglary is a specific intent crime (the entry must be done with the specific intent to commit a crime inside the house). Either the defendant was mistaken for another, was forced to act out of self-defense, was insane or suffering from diminished capacity, or perhaps committed a crime but just not the specific crime that the prosecutor alleges.] In this way diminished capacity was ridiculed as the "Twinkies Defense". fn. Additional examples of specific intent crimes include: A general intent crime only requires that the defendant perform the act. A durable power of attorney is a legal document prepared by a competent adult -- the "principal" -- who wants to name a trusted person to act for her when she cannot or does not wish to act for herself. If the prosecution is unable to prove an element, either because its case is weak or because the defendant has sufficient evidence to cast reasonable doubt on the presence of an element of the prosecution’s case, then the defendant should be acquitted of a crime requiring that element. For example, in an example of murder vs. manslaughter, a diminished capacity defense argues that a defendant is incapable of intending to cause a death, so they must have at … That is, a successful diminished capacity defense would have precluded a first degree murder conviction because of the lack of capacity to form the requisite mental state. Under the law at the time of Hernandez’s trial, evidence of “diminished capacity could negate the existence of” the specific mental state necessary for first degree murder. The extreme emotional disturbance doctrine, promulgated by the Model Penal Code and adopted in a small minority of American states, reduces murder to manslaughter if the killing occurred when the defendant was in a state of extreme mental or emotional disturbance for which there was reasonable explanation or excuse. In jurisdictions that give judges unguided or guided sentencing discretion, mental abnormality is a factor traditionally used to argue for a reduced sentence. Unlike NGRI, the defendant isn’t saying that they are “not guilty”. Examination of case law (e.g., appellate decisions) involving PTSD reveals that when offered as a criminal defense, PTSD has received mixed treatment in the judicial system. Because the defendant’s liberty and reputation are threatened by the power of the state, criminal defendants are afforded special protections in our adversary system, such as the right to have the prosecution prove its case by the rigorous beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard.  This type of defense says that the mental capacity of the accused was diminished to the point that he or she did not have the intent required to commit the crime. This is a famous but silly example because such a hallucination is extremely improbable, but if it were true, the defendant did not form in fact the mental state, the intent to kill another, required by the definition of intentional homicide. The defendant's mental state was not to the point of insanity, but there was some type of defect that impaired his mental function such as extremely low intelligence and post-traumatic stress disorder. “In asserting a diminished capacity defense, a defendant is attempting to prove that he was incapable of forming the specific intent to kill; if the defendant is successful, first degree murder is mitigated to third degree.” Commonwealth v. Travaglia, 661 A.2d 352, 359 n.10 (Pa. 1995) (emphasis in original), cert. Prior to the development of either variant of diminished capacity, a defendant suffering from mental abnormality had limited ability to use such abnormality to avoid conviction either by negating the prosecution’s prima facie case or by establishing an affirmative defense. Most people chose this as the best definition of diminished-capacity: A reduced capacity, cause... See the dictionary meaning, pronunciation, and sentence examples. Courts have tried to justify the particular limitations they place on the admission of mental abnormality evidence to negate mens rea, but other than the consequence of avoiding outright acquittal, there is no particular logic to the various limitations. Diminished capacity is an imperfect failure of proof defense recognized in a minority of jurisdictions. Such use of mental abnormality evidence is not a full or partial affirmative defense. Most prominent are (1) the Model Penal Code’s ‘‘extreme emotional disturbance’’ doctrine (sec. Diminished capacity could reduce a first-degree murder charge to second-degree murder or manslaughter if the defendant lacks the mental capacity to form the appropriate criminal intent for … Virtually automatic involuntary civil commitment follows a successful affirmative defense of legal insanity, but the state has less effective means to preventively confine dangerous defendants acquitted outright. Consequently, many courts began to permit the admission of mental abnormality evidence to negate mens rea, although for reasons to be explored below, they usually substantially restricted such use of abnormality evidence. The problem with the public safety rationale is practical rather than theoretical. Indeed, the extreme emotional disturbance doctrine was created to respond to the same moral concerns about responsibility as provocation/passion, but also to expand the class of defendants to whom these moral concerns apply and to whom the benefit of a partial mitigating condition should be provided. This plea came under criticism and scrutiny the in the 1979 case California v. White. Feel free to contact our writing service for professional assistance. The defense became known as diminished capacity and referred to a defendant's capacity to have the specific intent required for a crime. Another variation on the insanity defense is diminished responsibility or capacity. In contrast, “general intent”, only requires that you perform the act. Consequently, both courts and legislatures feared creating a subjective, generic partial excuse, again, in part, because they lacked confidence in the reliability of evidence of mental abnormality. Indeed, it seems conceptually and operationally indistinguishable from the extreme mental or emotional disturbance doctrine or from the language of some insanity defense tests. State v. Godfrey, 137 Vt. 159 (1979). Examples of conditions that historically have served as the basis for diminished capacity are mental illness not rising to the level of legal insanity, mental impairment (such as resulting from alcohol or drug use), and battered women’s syndrome. If it was necessary for them to “intend” to break the law, then most people would not be guilty of a DUI. The jury convicted White of voluntary manslaughter. Diminished Capacity A claim of diminished capacity differs from the insanity defense. Despite reluctance to adopt a partial excuse, courts and legislatures have adopted various doctrines or practices that are in fact forms of partial excuse. Nonetheless, no generic partial excuse for diminished rationality arising from mental abnormality exists in any jurisdiction in the United States or in English law. In the case of legal insanity, for example, mental disorder must be present as a cause of sufficient irrationality, but it is the irrationality and not the disorder per se that is the genuine basis of the excuse. Mental Impairment: Defense to Specific Intent or Mental State. Bill didn’t have “malice aforethought” or premeditation. It is not an attempt to be absolved of guilt in the case, but rather a technique for pleading … Exclusion of such evidence offered to defeat the prosecution’s case in a criminal case appears unfair. The language of these doctrines is sufficiently general to apply to any crime as an affirmative defense, but this is not the law. Application to felony murder. It seems especially unfair to exclude evidence of mental abnormality, which is rarely if ever the defendant’s fault, when most jurisdictions routinely admit evidence of voluntary intoxication, which is typically the defendant’s fault, to negate some mens rea. The insanity defense and diminished capacity. Regardless of the topic, subject or complexity, we can help you write any paper! Alcohol-Induced Blackout: How Does Alcohol Impact Memory? '4 However, in 1983, the Washington Supreme Court reversed this policy, holding instructions on diminished capacity should be given if there was substantial evidence of a defendant's diminished capacity negating his knowledge or Compare State v. Diminished responsibility is successful where the defendant did not have the rational capacity to order his actions according to rules, which must be due to an abnormality of mind. They argued that due to his diminished capacity he was unable to premeditate murder, which is one of the requirements for first-degree murder.