Commonwealth v. McHoul

(Mass, Criminal Responsibility Standard)

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SYLLABUS: At the trial of an indictment in which a qualified medical expert for the Commonwealth testified that his opinion as to the sanity of the defendant was that “according to the M’Naghten rule he was legally sane,” it was prejudicial error for the judge to strike out the part of the statement “about the M’Naghten rule” and to allow the “last part” to stand. [545-546]

Failure of the defendant to take exception to the trial judge’s charge as given at the trial of an indictment in which the defence of insanity was in issue did not preclude this court from appraising the charge to ascertain whether it complied with requests by the defendant in effect that the judge state at least the Massachusetts rule on criminal responsibility in its accepted wording. [***2] [547]

At the trial of an indictment in which the defence of insanity was in issue, an instruction by the judge that in order to establish that defence the defendant must be shown to have been unable to distinguish between right and wrong, and that irresistible impulse was no defence unless it was accompanied by such inability, was wrong even if the evidence did not show conduct that was irresistibly impelled. [547-548]

Discussion of the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code, Proposed Official Draft (1962), Section 4.01, relating to criminal irresponsibility by reason of mental disease or defect. (548-555]

The rule stated in the American Law Institute’s Model Penal Code, Proposed Official Draft (1962), Section 4.01, as to when mental disease or defect excludes criminal responsibility is a restatement of the Massachusetts rule on that subject in modern terms and in clearer and more understandable words, and hereafter in criminal cases in which the defence of insanity is in issue the trial shall be conducted and the charge given in accordance with the Code rule. [548, 555]

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