Pros and Cons of Insanity Defense, Death Penalty and The History of Cybercrime Prosecution

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What is the history of the insanity defense?

The insanity defense can be dated back to around the 16th century. This defense was expanded upon by British Courts in order to devise the ‘wild beast’ test. This test disallowed a defendant from being held responsible for their crimes if they had an understanding of the consequences of their actions no more than that of a ‘wild beast’ or infant (Math, 2015). Along with this, the guidelines for evaluating what deems a person ‘insane’ was codified in 1843 in the M’Naghten Rules. These rules made it so a defendant is not held responsible for a crime if they did not comprehend the nature of their action (Math, 2015). The American Legal Institute had created and implemented a new model for insanity defense in 1962; this model had been adopted by almost half the United States’ states. The new model stipulated that a defendant not be held criminally responsible, if during the time of the ‘crime’/action, the defendant lacked substantial capacity to grasp the wrongdoing of his/her actions (Math, 2015). Additionally, they would not be held responsible if the person could not conform his conduct to the requirements of the law due to mental disease or defect. Furthermore, in 1986 the Supreme Court ruled that the ‘insane’ could not be executed (Math, 2015). The insanity defense provides a multitude of advantages and disadvantages to society and the law, and it should continue to be allowed.The greatest advantage of the insanity defense is that it legally helps protect those who are mentally ill/ mentally insane from the death penalty. Taking into consideration the fact that those who are mentally ill tend to be the most vulnerable and susceptible to elements of society, the legal system has a duty in order to ensure that they get the psychiatric help that they need (Chief, 2015). The legal systems’ duty to help them is important because the alternative would be to punish them for their behavior that they have no real control over. This helps to allow the legal and justice system to encourage reformation rather than retribution, which can help improve overall societal attitudes. In addition to this, another pro is that this gives those who are mentally ill a chance to be liberated if he is successfully treated in an institution and there is assurance that he will no longer be a threat to society (Chief, 2015).

A huge disadvantage of the insanity defense is the possibility it leaves for exploitation and abuse (Chief, 2015). A prime example of this misuse that could happen in court is that criminals may try to use this defense in order to get a lesser and more merciful sentence. Insanity can be used as a ‘blanket excuse’ even without relevancy to one of the standard excuses that hinder liability; some of these excuses being mistaken belief or lack of mens rea (Chief, 2015). Also, another con of the insanity defense is that insanity is difficult to ascertain without a previous mental record (Chief, 2015). This makes it difficult for mentally ill defendants to claim this defense if they have not been medically diagnosed. Lastly, the insanity defense can increase trial costs because the defense will have to hire and bring in psychiatrists to evaluate the defendant (Chief, 2015). Overall in the negative standpoint, the insanity defense is difficult to prove, and it doesn’t necessarily guarantee relief for the defendant.

Despite the disadvantages to the insanity defense it should continue to be used and allowed in order to give fair treatment to those who suffer from mental illness/ insanity. Conversely, this defense should be uniform and narrowed down to cases in which the insanity is aimed towards a general defense like mistaken belief and/ or absence of mens rea. Uniformity and standardization are needed in order to ensure that incorrect assessments are a slim chance. With this, it may deter those who are attempting to use it as a ‘blanket excuse’ from doing so.

What is the history of the death penalty?

The death penalty has been dated back to the beginning of human existence. According to most historical records, the death penalty was used for all types of crimes; this ranges from murder to abandonment of a religion from a person (“Early History of the Death Penalty.”). It is noted that almost every society has once practiced the death penalty at some point in history. Today, the death penalty has been abolished in much of the world. However, highly populated countries such as the United States, China, India, and Indonesia have not abolished it yet (“Early History of the Death Penalty.”). This is due to the fact that the death penalty has a multitude of pros ad cons.
The death penalty was contained within the Code of Hammurabi with the ‘eye for an eye’ rule (“History of Death Penalty Laws.”). This rule meant that what crime you did to someone else, your punishment would be your criminal action done to you. If you decapitated someone, your punishment would be decapitation. In addition to this, the Torah allows for the death penalty in cases of murder, kidnapping, sex crimes, and profanity.

The Ancient Greeks and Romans had applied the death penalty for a wide range of crimes as well. The Romans even had public execution where the proceedings of the death penalty were viewed as entertainment (“History of Death Penalty Laws.”). These death penalty punishments included boiling, stoning, crucifixion, dismemberment, crushing, and/or slow slicing (“History of Death Penalty Laws.”).
There are multiple advantageous aspects to the death penalty. One aspect that is advantageous is the financial aspect. The death penalty is cheaper than keeping a person in prison, which would also make costs for taxpayers less (Chief, 2019). Another aspect is justice; meaning, the death penalty would provide closure to families and ensure justice for victims of murder and assault (Chief, 2019). Life imprisonment for a criminal can provide them with an opportunity to escape and all allow them the possibility of parole (Chief, 2019). This puts society at risk and disallows victim’s families to come to terms with what has happened to their loved ones. The death penalty also helps deter future crimes because criminals will be less likely to give up their life for doing a crime (Chief, 2019). There is controversary about criminals being wrongly accused and sentenced to death. However, modern DNA testing and forensics has helped eliminate most of the error in criminal prosecution.

Disadvantages to the death penalty include that it is a final measure and cannot be undone (Chief, 2019). Our current justice system is imperfect, and mistakes will always be prone to happen, despite new technological advancements. According to statistics, around 15+ death row inmates have been released on the basis of new DNA evidence (Chief, 2019). This makes it reasonable to assume that wrongful executions have occurred during the past century. Additionally, the death penalty sends the wrong moral message to society because killing is wrong in all circumstances to many people and inhumane (Chief, 2019). Another argument against the death penalty is that it is very costly and doesn’t necessarily provide any help for the victims or families (Chief, 2019). A better alternative to justice being served is to force the criminal to compensate the victim or the victim’s family.

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I think that a better alternative to the death penalty would be life imprisonment in a highly guarded prison so there is no chance of escape. Additionally, inmates should have to do manual labor that could benefit society. This is much more useful and unpleasant than being quickly and painlessly executed because it forces the criminal to confront his actions for the rest of his/her life. Additionally, the income generated from his labor could be utilized in order to help compensate the victim or the victim’s family. This would make imprisonment beneficial for society.

How has the prosecution of cybercrimes developed and changed over the last fifteen years?

The first hackers occurred in the 1960s at M.I.T. and appeared more captivated by toy trains than computers. Members of the model train enthusiast group at M.I.T. used their train ‘hacking’ skills and started utilizing them on the new mainframe computer system that were being developed on their campus at the time. This is when computer hackers came about. the first instance of computer hacking happened in 1972 when John Draper discovered that a toy whistle found inside a Cap’n Crunch box, created a tone of 2600 MHz (Marshall Jarrett). This was the same frequency that allowed a person to acquire access to AT&T’s long-distance switching system. Draper then used this tone in order to create ‘blue box’ which used this tone in order to make free phone calls. Telephone hackers obtained the name of ‘phreakers’ and even included Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who sold these ‘blue boxes’ in their home (Marshall Jarrett).

During the 1980s, governmental agencies faced the dawn of the computer age with rising alarms about the lack of criminal law available to fight cybercrimes. In response to this in 1984, Congress comprised the Comprehensive Crime Control Act provisions to deal with unauthorized access of computers and computer networks (Lynn Winmill). Congress made accessing classified information in a computer without authorization a felony. Additionally, they made it a misdemeanor to access financial records stored in financial institutions or to trespass into government networks and information. Throughout 1985, the Senate and the House held hearings on possible computer crime bills which led to the implementation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (Lynn Winmill).

The CFAA continued to criminalize computer-related acts. The penalization of theft of property via computer that transpires due to defrauding schemes was implemented. Additionally, Congress penalized those who purposefully damaged, altered, and/or destroyed data that belonged to others. Amendments in 2008 changed provisions outlined in the statute 18 U.S.C. section 1030 (Lynn Winmill). These provisions included expanding this statute to include criminalizing threats to steal computer data, publicly disclose stolen data, and not repairing damage done to computer. Additionally, these additions made it a criminal offense for conspiring to commit a computer hacking offense (Lynn Winmill).

Today, the CFAA consists of seven different types of criminal activity. The offenses along with their sentence are as follows:

Obtaining National Security information is a 10-year sentence with a maximum of 20 years. Accessing a computer and obtaining information is a 1 to 5-year sentence with a maximum of 10 years. Trespassing in a Government computer is a 1-year sentence with a maximum of 10 years. Accessing a computer to defraud and obtain value is 5-year sentence with a maximum of 10 years. Intentionally damaging knowing transmission is a 1 to 10-year sentence with a maximum of 20 years. Recklessly damaging by intentional access is a 1 to 5-year sentence with a maximum of 20 years. Negligently causing damage and loss by intentional access is a 1-year sentence with a maximum of 10 years. Trafficking passwords is also a 1-year sentence with a maximum of 10 years. Finally, extorting that involves computers is a 5-year sentence with a maximum of 10 years (Lynn Winmill).

Over the past 15 years, the government has had to further investigate protectionary measures against cybercrimes. These crimes are the hardest to catch, and when done correctly easy. Prosecution of cybercrimes have become more prominent and less lenient in today’s world when compared to 15 years ago. Continuous technological advancements make it imperative for the government to keep updating and revisiting cybercrime provisions in order to ensure the safety of the government and individuals.

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