Insanity defense

Andrea Yates

Forensic psychiatry is a critical subspecialty of psychiatry. Moreover, forensic psychiatrist have a crucial function in society, as they aid the judiciary process in assessing complex cases. In criminology, assessment areas can include an evaluation of one’s mental status, criminal accountability, suitability to plea, and more. And, in every criminal trial, the prosecuting agent must persuade the jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the offender possessed a convictable mental state when he or she carried out the crime. However, an insanity plea allows an offender to establish that he or she lacked the requisite mental state to be legally responsible for their crime. This paper shall give an analysis of how the psychological assessment and evaluation of Andrea Yates was used in the criminal proceedings of her trial. Furthermore, a defense in disagreement with the court’s final verdict of guilty by reason of insanity will be presented, contributing context to establish the validity of a culpable stance.
Legally Insane
It has been frequently aforementioned that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. However, in the framework of criminal law, insanity is defined as something completely different. Criminal insanity is a justification used by litigants to avert conviction of a legal infraction (Blumoff, 2015). When declaring insanity as a defense, a defendant must convince the courts that he or she experienced a mental health episode during the commission of a crime (Blumoff, 2015). In order to affirm such declarations, the judicial system and legal precedents have established various forensic assessments delineating what it means to be criminally insane.  These assessments provide forensic insight that aid the courts in determining whether or not a defendant was of sound mind or lacked the requisite mental state to be found guilty of a crime (Blumoff, 2015).
The Assessment
The forensic psychiatric assessment of Andrea Yates involved an extensive psychiatric history containing details of her life leading up to the homicide of her five children. It included details related to personal history, family, socioeconomics, psychiatric illness, and mental health status. During the assessment, one of the examiner’s goals was to obtain an account of when Mrs. Yates symptoms began and to outline how her syndromes progressed. Questions in regard to duration, intensity, and prescribed treatment were asked in order to elicit a full account of the history of her present illness. Furthermore, Andrea’s past history was chronicled in order to understand who she is as an individual and to determine if there were other conditions that were relevant to understanding her present mental state. Ultimately, the assessment of Andrea Yates was used as a test of insanity and to evaluate her knowledge of wrongdoing.
The M’Naghten assessment for criminal insanity appropriated its name from the acclaimed trial of Daniel M’Naghten (Knoll & Resnick, 2008). When using this assessment to evaluate insanity, a litigant can be determined legally insane if cerebral irregularities interfered with his or her ability to recognize that their behavior was amiss (Knoll & Resnick, 2008). Admittedly, Mrs. Yates knew that killing her children was both morally and legally wrong. However, her diagnosis of bipolar disorder and postpartum depression may have interfered with her psychological processes. Each of these diagnoses is an indicator of underlying problems with neurotransmitter functioning and confirm cerebral impairment (McLellan, 2006). Pairing the information gleaned from Mrs. Yates assessment with the validity identifiers of the M’Nagten test, it is reasonable to believe that Mrs. Yates sanity was more than likely compromised.
Another assessment used to test insanity is the irresistible impulse assessment.  According to the standard of this assessment, a litigate may assert that he or she should not be held accountable for the crimes at hand, regardless of their perception, due to the faulty mental functioning that impeded their ability to excises self-control (Knoll, & Resnick, 2008). During the assessment of Mrs. Yates, she indicated that she decided to kill her children long before she carried out her heinous actions. Moreover, she shared that on the day of the homicides she waited until her husband went to work in order to avoid any interference on his part. Because of this, it is reasonable to believe that Mrs. Yates possessed the ability to exercise self-control and was capable of governing her actions, therefore, the probability of guilt is more likely than not.
In the case of Andrea Yates, several assessments in both the initial and overturned verdict revealed measurable forensics.  Most importantly, the assessment of Mrs. Yates revealed that, with foresight and use of spiritual support to justify her actions, she used cognitive excuses to back her decision to commit murder.  In order to justify her warped interpretation, spiritual perspectives were incorporated enabling her to execute a heinous act with a civil reasoning in her mind.  Theorist purport that distorted perspectives often foster and justify a myriad of excuses to commit murder with sane objectives (Blumoff, 2015).  Furthermore, weighing the plausibility of the human mind to conjure negative emotions, impulse, and external contributors to the validation to induce such acts as sane reasoning. Moreover, in the state of Texas, the location in which the crimes were committed, legal insanity is only valid when at the time of the offense, the perpetrator, did not comprehend that his or her behavior was wrong due to extreme mental affliction or deficiency (Blumoff, 2015).  Although there is no doubt that Andrea Yates clearly suffered from significant mental turmoil, through her own account, she was well aware of the turpitude and lawlessness associated with her behavior. Because of this, it is reasonable to disagree with the guilty by reason of insanity verdict rendered during her appeal.
Accountability of one’s actions as a human is intrinsic and extrinsic in nature.  However, when the line is crossed in the case of crimes against one another, the measure of whether there can be a differentiation of the two.  This paper has highlighted the assessment and underlying details surrounding the murder of five human beings by their own mother.  The excuse of spiritual justification, mixed emotions, and a plethora of reasons for the action have been examined and assessed.  Yet, the laws of society and ethics supply the boundaries provided with the study of forensic psychiatry.
Forensic psychiatry, while a critical subspecialty of psychiatry supplies its crucial function in society.  Use of the specialty has aided the judiciary process of assessing the nuances of complex cases, such as Andrea Yates. While the subjectivity resulting from personal opinion, evidence, and assessment lead the writer to the disagreement of an overturned verdict of an insanity plea.  A tolerance of behavior that stands with no accountability has the likelihood of being the ‘loophole’ for calculated actions in the future.  Upholding the disagreement of the overturned verdict is hoped to set a precedent in sound judgment when it comes to pleas of this nature.
Blumoff, T. Y. (2015). RATIONALITY, INSANITY, AND THE INSANITY DEFENSE: REFLECTIONS ON THE LIMITS OF REASON. Law & Psychology Review, 39, 161-203. Retrieved from
Knoll, James L,I.V., M.D., & Resnick, P. J., M.D. (2008). Insanity defense evaluations: Basic procedure and best practices. Psychiatric Times, 25(14), 35-36,41. Retrieved from
McLellan, F. (2006). Mental health and justice: The case of andrea yates. The Lancet, 368(9551), 1951-4. Retrieved from

Rewrite and add more of the insanity defense and the laws in New York

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