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March 19, 1982

Knowing Right From Wrong: The Insanity Defense of Daniel McNaughtan

JAMA. 1982;247(11):1643-1644. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03320360073052

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On Jan 20, 1843, Edward Drummond, private secretary to British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel, was shot and mortally wounded by a young Scotsman from Glasgow named Daniel McNaughtan. McNaughtan apparently had meant to shoot Peel and killed Drummond by mistake. At his trial, McNaughtan was found not guilty by reason of insanity. The verdict was regarded as scandalous by the press, and an enraged House of Lords requested that the judges of the Supreme Court of Judicature answer five questions regarding the culpability of the insane and the use of insanity as a defense in a criminal trial; the judges' answers have come down to us as the "McNaughtan rules."

In Knowing Right From Wrong, Richard Moran, chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Mass, has reexamined the McNaughtan case historically. He reviews the facts of the case in their social and