Devilish Dream

I have had many strange dreams, but I want to record last night’s dream in this article so that I will remember it.  It was different from other dreams because it seemed very real.  In fact when I awakened, it didn’t feel like I had been dreaming, but it was like I had been transported from a strange location back to my bed. All I knew was that it was a devilish dream.

And that strange location was a classroom.  I was surrounded by thousands of people all sitting in metal folding chairs lined up in hundreds of rows, facing a podium with a speaker, who was addressing the class.  We were all sitting upright and offering the greatest degree of attention that we could muster.  The speaker was talking in a monotone voice that had a tendency to lull us to sleep, but we instinctively knew there would be consequences if we closed our eyes.

The topic of the presentation was the poor choices that many in the room had made during their lifetimes.  However, I was surprised when the speaker asked us to raise our hands if we felt like we had to suffer consequences for these poor decisions, that only a handful of us, including me, raised our hands.  The great majority obviously believed that there would be no punishment for their misdeeds.

I didn’t know the reasoning behind that belief, but I assumed that many of them thought that Jesus died for their sins and there would be no consequences because of that.  I am a Christian, but I have read the Bible enough to know that even though our sins are forgiven because of the sacrifices made by Jesus, the Bible clearly states that there still will be a Judgment Day for all of us.

There will be certain consequences for our actions even though we are forgiven by the death of Jesus.  The Bible is very clear on this, but ministers tend to overlook these passages in the good book so as not to alarm their congregations.  You can find passages all through the Bible that warn us that we will suffer consequences for our acts.

It might be more peaceful going into the afterlife, believing that there will be no punishment awaiting.  As an analogy, it’s probably better not knowing that a shot is going to be painful.  The wait before the shot could be more painful than the shot itself.  If you think too much about Judgment Day, you might have a tendency to unnecessarily worry about it.

I believe you must be realistic as you enter the afterlife or you may forget the most important thing:  you must unify with God.  If you are too peaceful, you may find yourself herded in the wrong direction.  Only unification with God will protect you from false prophets, guides, and leaders in the afterworld.

My guess is that God will administer different punishments for different souls.  It would be similar to our criminal law courts.  Somebody who was guilty of shoplifting may have to perform community service for 100 hours, while somebody guilty of murder may get a life sentence.  God will examine all of our sins on Judgment Day holding us all accountable.

But back to my dream.  As all the attendees were asked to raise their hands if they believed that they would be punished for their bad choices, a big search light came on behind us, so that we could see our shadows in front of us.  I noticed that my hand was raised while nobody else in my row or behind me had their hands raised.

However that was not the biggest surprise.  I was shocked when I noticed that all of us had horns on the top of our heads.  Not one soul in the meeting failed to have two horns positioned on the crown of their heads.  But when I looked at my neighbor straight on, there was no set of horns.  The horns could only be detected by the shadows when the light was behind us.

Those of us who understood that we would have consequences for our actions during our lifetimes were summarily whisked out of the room and were taken to a small room with no windows and only one door.  It reminded me of an interrogation room.  After a moment, a man with a long gray beard entered the room and told us that he was always surprised that only a handful out of each class knew that they would be punished in the afterlife.

Some hoped that they would not be punished and would not admit that it was even a possibility.  Some rationalized that they had not done anything wrong.  Others felt that they had been punished enough during their lives.  Others believed Jesus erased all consequences.  Others thought that there was nothing after death.  Others pretended not to care.

In the last part of my dream before I was transported back to my bed, I was informed that there were other tests ahead.  The small handful of us had passed only the first of many tests.  I assumed there were also consequences ahead for other tests, depending on how we did.

I remembered what Jesus said, “… narrow is the way, which leadeth into life, and few there be that find it.”  Matthew 7:14.  Jesus was saying that only a few of us will reach God’s kingdom.  In all my years of attending church, I have never heard a minister explain this statement.  And even though it will be difficult to reach Heaven even if you become one with God, it will be impossible if you do not unify with Him.



Insanity Should Not Be a Defense

The insanity defense drives some members of the public insane.  In fact, one of these members of the public, claiming temporary insanity, might run out and shoot a murderer who used this defense.  This example points out the absurdity of the insanity defense.  The problem is that many murderers are, at a minimum, temporarily insane when they kill.

Even though a small percentage of criminals are found not guilty by reason of insanity, this controversial defense needs more scrutiny.  Let’s examine the rules of law that apply to this defense.

There are five tests of criminal responsibility involving insanity:  (1) M’Naghten Rule in 1843, which states that the accused must prove that he didn’t know what he was doing or didn’t know it was wrong, (2) the irresistible impulse in 1897, which means that the charged could not control his conduct, (3) the Durham Rule in 1954, which is mental illness caused the criminal act, (4) the Model Penal Code in 1972, declares the he lacked the substantial capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control it, and (5) the Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984, which currently requires showing the lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.

The evolution of the insanity defense has followed the public’s concern that a murderer will get back out on the street because a high-paid psychiatrist told the jury that he was insane.  Prior to 1843, if you proved that when you committed a murder, you did not know what you were doing; you could be released.  When Daniel M’Naghten killed Edward Drummond, M’Naghten claimed he believed that Drummond was the Prime Minister of Great Britian, so he got off.  The public was incensed.  Quite frankly, M’Naghten intentionally killed a man.  It shouldn’t matter whether he mistook Mr. Drummond for the Prime Minister.

The M’Naghten Rule soon came into existence, which is used by several of the states even today.  In short, the rule is that if at the time of the act you are laboring under a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, so as to not know the nature and quality of the act you are doing, or if you do not know the difference between right and wrong, then you could use the defense of insanity.

As we learned more about mental disorders, some professionals have argued that some people may be able to distinguish right from wrong and still be insane.  Some states allowed defendants to argue that even though they knew that what they were doing was wrong, they were unable to control an urge to commit the crime, which was termed the irresistible impulse rule.  This test is problematic because murderers could argue this quite frequently.  It opens up a big exit door for the defense.

Then the Durham Rule came along.  Monte Durham had a long history of both criminal activity and mental illness.  The court held that Durham was not guilty because his criminal acts were the product of a mental disease or defect.  This rule provided that insanity was caused by many factors, not all of which need to be present in each criminal case.  This rule was very controversial since it did little to define mental disease or defect.

All the federal courts and many state courts adopted Model Penal Codes by 1982.  These codes stated that if at the time of the conduct as a result of mental disease or defect, the accused is not responsible if he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law.  In effect, this broadened the M’Naghten and Irresistible Impulse rules, by focusing on the individual’s substantial capacity.  This gets away from the black and white of being able to distinguish right from wrong.

When John Hinckley attempted to assassinate President Reagan, his defense team showed that Hinckley was insane, so he was acquitted.  This created a public backlash, leading to several states abolishing the insanity defense and twelve states changing the law to provide a verdict of “guilty but mentally ill” leading to a prison sentence with psychiatric treatment.

The Comprehensive Crime Control Act of 1984 modified the federal rules regarding the insanity defense, shifting the burden of proof from the prosecutor to the defendant.  The test for insanity was a lack of capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct.  This gives a professional psychiatrist plenty of leeway to testify that a murderer was insane.  A person found not guilty by reason of insanity would be committed to a mental hospital until that person would no longer be dangerous to society.

Today, the insanity defense is just too confusing for jurors and they are at the mercy of the psychiatrists who are paid well for their opinions.  The best approach is to allow the case to be prosecuted without the insanity defense.  Then, the court would allow evidence of mental defect or insanity in the sentencing portion of the trial.  The jurors could even require prison with psychiatric assistance during the prisoner’s sentence.  If the prisoner is really bad and needs full time psychiatric care, then that could be arranged.  When the prisoner is better, he would be returned to prison.  There are many possible options under sentencing to deal with insanity, but giving a killer a free pass is not one of them.

What about a murderer who does not have the capacity to defend himself in court?  A friend of the court could be appointed to represent that individual’s interest, separate and apart from his attorney.  It would be similar to a civil court appointing a representative for somebody who is being declared incompetent.

What about the element of intent in murder?  In order for an accused to be charged with murder, there typically has to be malice aforethought.  This requires a deliberate, premeditated, and willful killing of another human being.  Many states determine if the accused knew his behavior had a strong chance of causing death or was reckless in conduct that caused death.

If the accused had a mental defect, such as being a paranoid schizophrenic, then the facts of the case have to be examined.  If the individual was on medications that made them normal, but they stopped taking the medications, then this provides evidence that the accused was criminally negligent and when he stopped taking the medications, he showed indifference to life and recklessly engaged in conduct that caused death.

Each crime must be examined on a case-by-case method to determine whether murder or manslaughter is involved.  Insanity should only be examined as a mitigating factor in the murder trial.  In some cases, it may lead to a manslaughter indictment.  In most cases, it would lead to mitigation in the sentencing phase of the trial.  But the bottom line is that insanity should not be a defense that erases the crime.