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After Multiple Charges, Defendant Pleads Insanity Defense


After a jury trial, a man was convicted of attempted murder in the second degree, two counts of attempted murder in the second degree, assault in the first degree, three counts of assault in the first degree, 15 counts each of kidnapping in the second degree and kidnapping in the second degree, five counts each of assault in the second degree as a hate crime and of assault in the second degree, and three counts each of criminal possession of a weapon in the second and third degrees, and sentencing him, as second violent felony offender, to a cumulative term of 240 years.

In the main charge on the insanity argument and its response to notes from the deliberating jury, the court properly read the jury instructions pattern which charge on the said subject. The court properly declined to add language instructing the jury to consider the man’s capacity to know or appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct from a subjective point of view relating to the false beliefs that he allegedly held as a result of psychiatric illness. The standard language permitted the jury to accept the man’s insanity argument under the theory that his asserted mental disorder caused him to sincerely believe that society would approve of his immoral acts because they were divinely commanded. The court was not obligated to add the language to that effect or to give any special instructions concerning a false belief. The court also concludes that the supplemental instructions were meaningful responses to the notes. The court further notes that there was sufficient evidence from which the jury could conclude that the man did not have any delusions or hallucinations about being divinely commanded to commit his criminal acts.
The man’s first trial resulted in a mistrial when the jury was unable to reach a verdict. On his retrial, the man was convicted of 53 counts, including attempted murder and assault, both as hate crimes, and was acquitted of attempted murder in the first degree. The only defense raised was that the man was not responsible by reason of mental disease when he committed the criminal acts. The psychiatrist called by the Court found that the man was legally sane when he acted, but other examining psychiatrists found man to be seriously delusional and/or insane.

The court properly denied the man’s contentions for cause to a potential juror who despite of her self-professed strong opinions on the insanity argument based on research she had conducted while in college and declared that she could follow the Court’s instructions and be fair. The man’s claim under psychiatric illness does not warrant reversal. The documents at issue did not qualify as material. The court have considered and rejected the man’s remaining claims.

The man’s counsel challenged the potential juror for cause, arguing that she did not know if the potential juror could be fair, given her strong opinions, and that she posed a danger of becoming an expert in the jury room. The court agreed to question the potential juror in further.
Subsequently, the court denied the challenge for cause, forcing the man’s counsel to apply an unconditional challenge to remove the potential juror. Before applying the challenge, the man’s counsel noted for the record that the potential juror had indicated she was coming to the case with a bias that would affect how she would listen to and evaluate the evidence. Thereafter, the man exhausted all of his remaining challenges during the oath of competency.

The potential juror in the case indicated that she would try to follow the judge’s instructions and never said that she could not be fair, she twice stated that because of her wide research into the insanity argument, she was biased about how it should be applied, and that she felt her background would affect her interpretation of the law. In contrary, the court find that in the context of the whole record, the potential juror’s self-acknowledged bias about the insanity argument was not the definite assurance of impartiality to which the man was entitled. Therefore, the trial court has granted the challenge for cause.

If a family member is a mentally challenge individual or incidentally acquired mental illness and unfortunately committed a crime, such as robbery, theft or even murder, you can ask the help of the NY Criminal Lawyers together with the NY Domestic Violence Lawyers at Stephen Bilkis and Associates.

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