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But discoveries of fundamental anatomical and physiological differences between the brains of psychopaths and non-psychopaths--including non-psychopathic criminals—as well as evidence those psychopathic traits may be inherited, has set the stage for arguments that even those who commit the worst of crimes should not be held responsible for them.After all, they didn’t choose their genetic makeup or to be born without the capacity for empathy.On August 24, 2012, he will learn the court’s verdict.Prosecutors urged the court to find Breivik legally insane, as this would lead to a lifetime of confinement in a mental hospital.There is growing evidence for genetic transmission of numerous psychiatric conditions, including personality disorders, as well as their underlying anatomic and physiological abnormalities.Psychopathy, for example, is an extreme form of personality disturbance, with no established effective treatment, marked by indifference to right and wrong, lack of empathy, conning and manipulation, and aggressive pursuit of self-interest.
When it has been successful, the apparent key to the success of these defenses lies in the concrete and observable nature of the abnormality: juries can see the tumor on a brain scan, and may be presented with evidence that the criminal behavior did not occur before the injury or that it stops after treatment.
For example, in the early 1980’s, the standard for the insanity defense in federal criminal cases was the American Law Institute/Model Penal Code standard.
It provides for acquittal on the basis of insanity if as the result of a mental disease or defect, the defendant lacked substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his actions or lacked substantial capacity to conform his behavior to the requirements of the law.
What about people who cause harm to others or commit crimes while sleepwalking?
Yes, those cases exist, and the defendants are generally not held criminally responsible.