Can You Please Give Me an Explanation of the M’Naghten Rules (Pronounced “McNaughton Rules”)

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“I had just watched the pbs program on “A Crime of Insanity” which talked about the Ralph Tortorici case. I got on the information section of the page and it mentioned the M’Naghten rules. I was interested so I did some research and found this site:

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From the site, the rules include things like Defect of Reason, Disease of the Mind, Delusions etc.. But they all seem very very similar to me, so I’m wondering how you would apply the rules to a case – for example the Tortorici case. That is, would you apply the rules and include everything (all rules – defect of reason, disease of the mind etc) or would you just apply a few that are relevant? And if you do apply a selected few, how would you do that (like how would you differentiate between them)?

I’m just kind of confused about the rules and it would really help if I could get some clarification on this issue.”

Unfortunately, we don’t have the amount of space – nor time – here to really get into a detailed explanation of the various differences and nuances at play here.

Suffice to say that law school criminal law classes can take as much as a week studying just the M’Naghten (pronounced “McNaughton”) rule alone.

That said, typically an attorney will plea any possible defense which may apply, each “in the alternative” to the other.

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Author: House Attorney

A house attorney has answered this question.