Graduation Year


Date of Submission


Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



Second Department


Reader 1

Paul Hurley

Reader 2

Kenneth Miller

Rights Information

© 2015 Jessica O. Laird


This thesis focuses on the treatment of insanity in the criminal law and its implications for the concepts and mechanisms of legal accountability. In order to address this issue, I examined the historical background of the insanity defense and five specific cases that demonstrate the complications arising from insanity’s present legal condition. From this case study I drew the conclusion that, because liability to punishment requires particular internal conditions, criminal responsibility is the proper measure of legal accountability for insane persons. Ultimately, my research demonstrated that insanity occupies a unique position in both the theory of crimes and the theory of punishment and that a trial by jury is not the most appropriate way for adjudicating issues of insanity. In each of these spheres, judges consider how mental conditions relate to criminal responsibility and the role that juries play shrinks as the content of guilt shifts to criminal responsibility. For this reason, I conclude that judges are the best candidates for addressing insanity and its effect on criminal responsibility.


  • 2015 CMC Best Thesis Award – Philosophy

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.