So fearfully and wonderfully are we made, so infinitely subtle is the spiritual part of our being, so difficult is it to trace with accuracy the effect of diseased intellect upon human action, that I may appeal to all who hear me, whether there are any causes more difficult, or which, indeed, so often confound the learning of the judges themselves, as when insanity, or the the effects and consequences of insanity, become the subjects of legal consideration and judgment.
The reach of law extends only to those able to comprehend its terms and abide by its prescriptions. By this very logic, being human is not enough, for some human beings are so lacking in comprehension, so possessed by the ruling power of another, so destitute of personal powers of self-control as to be indistinguishable from infants, wild beasts or even mere tools. Ancient Greek and Roman law fully respected this, and thus provided legal defences based on claims of diminished capacity. Far from making a mockery of justice, therefore, as is sometimes claimed, the insanity defense is implicit in the very concept of justice. As early as Draco's homicide law one finds distinctions made between intentional and non-responsible homicides (Gagarin, 1981). Mitigation based on mental states, then, is as old as Western juridical thought itself.
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