murder. In this case the accused, Mr Cheatham stabbed his wife, three old year old daughter and three month old daughter numerous times.
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Introduction In this case the accused, Mr Cheatham stabbed his wife, three old year old daughter and three month old daughter numerous times. His wife and older daughter died from their wounds but skilled surgery managed to save the life of his three-month-old daughter. The prosecution would want to try the accused for two counts of murder (of his wife and older child) and one count of attempted murder (the younger child). However, the accused may be able to argue the defence of insanity, or in the alternative, diminished responsibility, which would result in either acquittal or a murder conviction being reduced to manslaughter. Firstly what the prosecution must prove to gain a conviction on the charges will be discussed. Secondly what the defence must prove in order to escape conviction will be discussed. Last of all the two different cases will be assessed and which case appears to be the stronger side will be suggested. The relevant jurisdiction has been assumed to be the Australian Capital Territory, and all referred legislation references in this paper are Crimes Act 1900 (ACT) unless otherwise specified. 1. MURDER In order for the accused to be convicted of murder of his wife and 3-year-old child, the prosecution will need to prove: (a)That the accused did an act which caused the death of the two victims; and (b)The accused did so with: i.
It was the last possible act." In this case it could be said the accused's acts were sufficiently proximate and fulfilled the 'last act' test, as there was no more that the accused could do to complete the murder. The accused had taken all possible steps to murder his daughter, it was only the end result that did not work out. 2. INSANITY In order for the accused to be acquitted for the murders and attempted murder on the grounds of insanity, the defence will need to prove: (a) That the accused had a mental dysfunction that affects a person to a substantially disabling degree); and (b) The accused was incapable of knowing: i. what he was doing, or ii. that his actions were wrong. (Section 428) The court will leave the first question to be decided by the jury, on the basis of expert medical evidence. This is largely a matter of fact, and the defence will put forward the evidence of Dr Milton to show the accused was suffering from a mental dysfunction, namely hypochondriasis. The defence will then need to show the accused was acting under such defect of reason that he did not know his actions were wrong, or the accused did not have the capacity to reason and think with sense and composure. (M'Naghten  8 ER 718 at 722 )
3. WHICH CASE IS STRONGER? The prosecutions case may appear stronger and their case already proven, as it is fair to say that the accused killed, (or attempted to kill), his wife and two children. He fulfilled all the elements required for a conviction of murder and attempted murder. The accused made the appropriate actions towards killing his family and he also showed intent, firstly by expressing his intent, stabbing them numerous times and lastly being 'visibly distressed' when he found out that his youngest daughter was still alive. The defence need to prove insanity or diminished responsibility only on the balance of probabilities. But at the same time the prosecution must shed doubt upon the defence's case. Insanity will result in full acquittal whereas diminished responsibility will result in a murder conviction being dropped to manslaughter. I believe that the accused has a strong case to argue on not guilty on the grounds of insanity, as based on expert witnesses,(DR Milton) I think it can be proven that the level of the accsued's hypochondriasis rendered him insane, as no sane person or 'reasonable man' would kill their family even under the same circumstances. I do not think the accused was acting as a reasonable man and I believe that his delusions caused by his hypochondriasis were so great that it can be proven that he was probably insane. The accused I believe he did not know the quality of his actions. Therefore I believe that the accused should be acquitted on the grounds of insanity.
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