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Defendant Claims Mental Illness as a Defense


Issues that involve mentally ill suspects can be difficult to manage in the criminal justice system. Mentally ill suspects are a special population of offenders that do not fit squarely in the legislative intent in most cases. A New York Criminal Lawyer said when a violent crime involves a person who is clearly mentally ill, the court must balance the rights of the victim’s family to see justice done with the ethical problem of managing an offender who may not be able to comprehend the trial process, his charges, or that what he did was wrong. There have been several laws throughout history that were designed to create a balance of determination where it regards mental competency to stand trial. The McNaughten Rule was the common choice for the last 100 years. The McNaughten Rule established that the offender had to know that what he had done was wrong.

In 1963, the New York Legislature passed document No. 8. On pages 18-19 of this docuent, the courts revised the McNaughten Rule’s theory of the offender knowing that what he did was wrong. The more modern view that encompasses the scientific knowledge of the day as it relates to mental illness, only requires that an offender has a substantial capacity to know or appreciate that what they have done is wrong. A New York Criminal Lawyer said some states include this wording in legal statutes that claim the person may be guilty, but still mentally ill. In states that have a guilty, but mentally ill statute, the person who is found guilty of the crime is sentenced to a mental institution until they are deemed cured, then they are transferred to a penitentiary where they will serve the remainder of their sentences. In 1970, this option was not available. One particularly heinous crime brought this legal problem to the forefront of public attention.

In 1970, a sixteen year old boy was working in a New York apartment building as a porter. One of his duties was to fix minor problems within the apartments. One day, a woman called in a problem with her blinds, the porter responded to fix them and entered her apartment. She was later found raped and brutally stabbed numerous times. The knife was left protruding from her buttocks when the offender left the scene. Before her body was found, the porter had shown up at the fire station next door to the apartment building with a severe cut on one of his hands. He told the firemen that he had cut his hand on some barbed wire. The firemen transported him to the hospital to receive stitches. The boy went home and told his mother that he had fallen on a bag that had glass in it and cut his hand. He was later arrested and told the police a different story about how he had cut his hand.

Eventually, the truth came out. He stated in a confession given to the police and to a prosecutor, that he had been fixing the blinds in the woman’s apartment and that he had heard her calling him names that were provocative and that he considered were solicitous of a sexual response. A New York Drug Possession Crime said that he said that she called him “baby and sexy” and that he did not like that. He stated that he told her to stop calling him things like that, but that she would not. He stated that he had begun to punch her to make her stop and that during the attack, her clothes had been ripped. When he could see parts of her body, he became sexually aroused and began to rape her. Afterwards, she was still alive and he said that she was still saying things to him that he considered to be sexual advances. He went in to her kitchen and retrieved a knife which he used to stab her numerous times. During the stabbing, he accidently cut his own hand causing the injury that he had sought help for. The police arrested him.

The defendant obtained an attorney. The attorney filed a motion to the court that his client was mentally ill and that he could not be held responsible for his actions. The attorney presented several medical doctors who had examined the offender. One of these doctors had examined this boy in the past when he had committed sexually violent offenses as a juvenile. This doctor had diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia with auditory hallucinations. He advised that when he had first examined the offender, he had told him that he kept hearing voices telling him to rape and hurt women. He stated that the voices were so severe that he would turn his radio up very high in an attempt to drown them out. He stated that it sometimes worked. This doctor produced a report that he had written in 1970 the first time that he examined this offender that predicted that this offender was violent, dangerous and demonstrated psychotic impulses that he felt could lead to homicide.

In this second examination, the same doctor examined the offender after he had killed the woman in the apartment building and stated that he still felt that the boy was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and that he had only a child-like understanding of what had transpired. He stated that the offender had heard the woman calling to him in a sexually provocative manner. However, he contends that since the offender states that this commentary continued throughout his attack, that the woman was not saying those things to the offender at all. This doctor believed the commentary to be an auditory hallucination that precipitated the attack on the woman. A New York Sex Crimes Lawyer he stated that in the offender’s mind, he was defending himself from the woman and that the fact that he left the scene and lied about how his hand was injured, did not demonstrate an understanding that it was wrong in the same manner that a sane person would understand the consequences of similar actions.

Several other medical experts took the stand, including one for the prosecution who stated that he believed that the boy’s actions were those of a typical homicidal rapist who had no mental illness other than the sexual compulsion to rape and murder. He stated that he did not see any sign of schizophrenia when he administered a particular test. The test, however, under cross examination was shown to have been one that was not widely recognized in the medical field and involved the offender being able to follow a paperclip on a string. Other prosecution witnessed stated that they had notices profound mental impairment in this subject and all but this one diagnosed the offender with paranoid schizophrenia.

The court evaluated the findings of all of the psychiatrists and determined that at the time of the incident and even at the time of the evaluation of the court, that the offender was mentally ill to such a degree that he could not stand trial. The court determined that this offender most probably suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and that he responded to orders that he heard in auditory hallucinations. The court determined that the prosecution was not able to prove that he was able to understand the proceedings and that the conviction was overturned and remanded to the courts for a new determination with his mental illness taken into proper bearing.

Stephen Bilkis & Associates has criminal Lawyers with convenient offices throughout Kings County and the Metropolitan area. Their sexual assault Attorneys are available to help you if you need guidance through difficult situations.

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