It isn’t very often under the United States’ legal system that a jury is asked to debate someone’s guilt more than once.
However, occasionally a case comes along that has some unique features that illustrate the exceptions to the rules.
That’s the situation in Maryland’s Howard County, where a jury found a 31-year-old man guilty of murdering both his mother and father after deliberating only two hours.
It took the jury three hours longer, however, to decide if he was criminally responsible for their deaths. In the end, the jury sided with the prosecution — determining that the killer belonged behind bars and not in a mental institution.
This was a unique case in that the defense had argued that the convicted killer shouldn’t be held responsible for his parents’ death through the penal system because he suffered from a variety of mental disorders, including bipolar disorder. His defense argued that the defendant had simply suffered a psychotic break when he murdered his parents.
Under the law, that meant that he could evade criminal responsibility for his actions. That didn’t necessarily mean, however, that he wouldn’t be incarcerated — he would be sent to a mental health facility instead of a jail. In addition, had his appeal to the jury succeeded, he could have been released whenever doctors at the mental health facility deemed him safe to reenter society.
The prosecution contended that the convicted killer was faking his mental illness, a charge his defense attorney denies.
At the very least, the defendant exhibited behavior in the courtroom that caused the judge to have him removed — although he was brought back to hear closing arguments between the prosecution and defense and for the jury’s verdict.
Cases like this illustrate the difficulty of getting what many people think of as a “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict. While the claim is something that is popularly thought to be easy to reach, it is actually a difficult claim to press in court.
It’s important to remember, however, that mental illness is often a mitigating factor in criminal defense claims. It’s important to discuss any mental illness you have with your defense attorney as soon as possible in order to build the best defense.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Howard County jury finds already-convicted murderer criminally responsible in death of his parents,” Colin Campbell, Oct. 03, 2017