Getting Away with Murder, Or Not

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Getting Away with Murder, Or Not. Higgins O’Brien Spring 2012. “Prison is Too Good for Them”. A 2008 poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center showed that 2/3 of citizens believe the courts are “too soft” on crime
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Getting Away with Murder,Or NotHiggins O’BrienSpring 2012“Prison is Too Good for Them”
  • A 2008 poll conducted by the National Opinion Research Center showed that 2/3 of citizens believe the courts are “too soft” on crime
  • This contrasts with the 1990's, when about 85% of the public believed the courts were fair
  • The Insanity Defense
  • The first insanity trial occurred in 1724 England, when a shooter believed imps were keeping him awake at night
  • Courts have always struggled with defining “madness”
  • The McNaughten rule
  • The defendant must understand the act
  • The defendant must know that it is wrong
  • These early rules were very broad, and many offenders were successful in claiming insanity
  • The Insanity Defense continued
  • The assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan was a major turning point
  • John Hinkley Jr. believed that killing the President would win the affection of actress Jodie Foster
  • Hinkley was successful in his plea of insanity
  • 76% of the public felt justice had not been served
  • Many reforms took place
  • The prosecution no longer has to prove that the offender is sane, it now rests on the defense to demonstrate insanity
  • Must have clear and convincing evidence
  • The Insanity Defense continued
  • Despite public opinion, less than 1% of defendants attempt an insanity plea
  • Of these cases, only 26% were successful
  • Offenders attempting to lie and escape punishment do exist, but the majority of insanity defenses are for individuals with severe and legitimate mental issues
  • Capital Punishment
  • The death penalty has been, and continues to be a huge debate in the United States
  • Capital Punishment continued
  • There are many public misconceptions about sentencing and release
  • Politicians who support the death penalty often gain strong support from the public
  • Key issue in the successful Presidential campaigns of George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton
  • There is still a considerable debate on what crimes warrant death (first degree murder, second degree murder, rapists)
  • Capital Punishment continued
  • Most scientific research points toward the death penalty having no effect on murders
  • No more likely to deter crime than life imprisonment
  • But despite a lack of deterrence effect and the expensive cost of trials, capital punishment remains popular
  • Supporters cite retribution, “an eye for an eye”
  • Racial Discrimination inCapital Punishment?Racial Discrimination inCapital Punishment?Capital Punishment continued
  • DNA testing and other scientific advancement has had a tremendous impact on the criminal justice system
  • Much more certainty in whether an offender is innocent or guilty
  • Homicides have dropped in recent years, and so has the number of inmates on death row (3,200 in 2008)
  • Punishing Juvenile Murderers
  • Even before the death penalty was abolished for minors, very few were ever executed in the U.S.
  • States differ in law, but the most severe punishment is juvenile life without parole eligibility (JLWOP)
  • There are about 2,500 inmates incarcerated for life under the age of 18
  • In 2010, the U.S. Supreme court abolished JLWOP for non-homicide offenses
  • Epidemic Thinking and Overresponse
  • Public opinions, perceptions, and attitudes are usually driven by high profile events
  • These high profile events are usually the rarest and most extreme cases
  • Child abduction has always remained very low, but “epidemics” appear every few years
  • Mass media can exaggerate, and link items together that may have no real relation
  • The idea that “bad things come in threes”
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