In 1843 a man named M’Naghten, convinced he was being persecuted, attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister of England and killed the Prime Minister’s secretary in the attempt. M’Naghten was acquitted by reason of insanity, but public uproar caused the House of Lords to make inquiry of the judges concerning the law of insanity. The most important answer to that inquiry was that a sane man understands the nature and quality of his acts or knows that they are wrong.
In 1955, over one hundred years later, a man named Thompson fired five shots at his wife in Omaha, Nebraska; and in reviewing his case, the Nebraska Supreme Court set down in its opinion the M’Naghten formula as the only test of criminal responsibility recognized in this state. Though the application of the M’Naghten test was not questioned by the plaintiff in error in the Thompson case, the language of the court leaves little doubt as to its adherence to the formula. It is the purpose of this article to scrutinize the tests of insanity being used by other state courts and to determine the advisability of the continued use of the M’Naghten test in Nebraska.
Lyman C. Johnson,
Criminal Law—The Need for a New Conception of Insanity as a Defense to a Crime in Nebraska,
34 Neb. L. Rev. 690
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol34/iss4/11