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Insanity Plea

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Lauren Wagner

on 26 November 2013

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Transcript of Insanity Plea

Example #4
Example Case #1
Our Issue:
Should the insanity plea be allowed in legal matters if the defendant committed a crime while under the influence of substances?

Example Case #3
Terms You Should Know

By: Brad Bialk, Lauren Wagner, Rachel Shapiro, and Eryn Schafer
The state of being mentally unstable.
Settled Insanity:
Permanent mental condition that is the result of long-term substance abuse.
Temporary Insanity:
A legal defense asserted by a criminal defendant to prove that he or she could not understand the wrongful actions of their crime due to the intoxicating effects of drugs.
Insanity Plea:
A legal defense where the defendant pleads not guilty by way of mental instability. This means that the defendant could not comprehend that the acts committed were wrongful through settled insanity or temporary insanity.
Guilty Except Insane:
A legal verdict in which the defendant is found guilty of a crime, except is mentally incompetent and can be evaluated and placed in a mental institution instead of jail or prison.

When a case is ruled guilty by reasons of insanity the defendant is put into a mental facility to undergo treatment for the same number of years as the regular prison sentence would be for that crime. This can vary, in some cases time is spent in a mental facility until the individual is deemed mental stable again with periodic checkups in the time that follows.

When the insanity plea is not accepted and the defendant is guilty as charged they are given a standard prison sentence/parole/etc. In such cases where the crime is committed while under the influence of drugs voluntarily ingested, the insanity plea is rejected and the defendant is given jail time, however it does not seem like there is any treatment of drug abuse or addiction while serving that sentence.

Society's View
Group Opinion
We as a group agree that some of these drugs can cause psychotic symptoms or insane behavior. However, unless the drug is ingested involuntarily, you are making a conscious decision to commit a wrongful act. By law, if you are able to distinguish right from wrong at the time of the crime, you cannot use the insanity defense in court and the use of drugs is generally not considered to be a factor. We disagree on this point because we feel that if drug-induced insane behavior is experienced before the crime is committed, then the individual would not be conscious of the fact that they are committing a wrongful act.
Questions and Class Discussion
Errol D. Beumel Jr., 27 vs. State of Indiana
Responsible for the shooting/murder of his father, Errol D. Beumel Sr. on April 2, 2003.
Beumel Jr. claimed evil spirits prompted him to kill his father while overdosed on Adderall when he posed a defense of insanity.
Beumel Jr. had threatened his parents many times before when he accused them of withholding money and letters from his incarcerated girlfriend from him. His hostility towards his parents increased with his furthering abuse of Adderall.
Defense claimed his abuse was so severe that he had ten times the prescribed amount in his system during the killing.
Many psychiatrists' evaluations led them to believe he was capable of rational thinking at the time of the murder, but had faced drug-induced psychosis in the past.
It was also believed that Beumel abused steroids. Doctors involved with the defense have stated that the use of these steroids could have increased aggressiveness and when combined with the Adderall could provoke psychotic tendencies.
Insanity plea rejected by court and was found guilty of murder. Sentenced to 70 years for murder and using a firearm in the commission of an offense.
Jury ruled against insanity plea defense because Beumel Jr.
fraudulently obtained and willingly took Adderall after knowing the negative effects it had on him in the past
and he refused to get proper treatment for his drug problems.

STATE of Nebraska, appellee, v. Joseph D. HOTZ, appellant.
consuming psilocybin mushrooms and stabbing/killing his roommate Kennith Pfeiffer as well as breaking and entering into several neighborhood homes and threatening harm to residents
Hotz timely filed a notice of intent to rely on the insanity defense as is required by Nebraska Law claiming that he was temporarily insane when he killed Pfeiffer and that the crime was a direct result of his ingestion of the mushrooms
The State then filed a motion to prohibit Hotz' expert witness (Psychiatrist Dr. Wilson) from expressing an opinion concerning the insanity defense, because the evaluation of Hotz “did not show he was suffering from a mental disease, defect, or disorder as those terms are used in the context of an insanity defense.” The State's position was that Hotz had taken psilocybin mushrooms in the past and so was aware of the possible negative effects the mushrooms would have on him personally.
Hotz assigns that the district court erred when it prohibited expert witness testimony and refused a retrial
Nebraska law states that
a defendant may not assert an insanity defense when the insanity was temporary and brought on solely by voluntary intoxication through the use of drugs
. Because Hotz was not entitled to an insanity instruction, the trial court did not err in excluding Hotz' expert witness' testimony on insanity. However, Hotz was led to believe that he would be able to rely on the insanity defense, and this constituted an irregularity in the proceedings sufficient for a new trial under § 29–2101(1).
Guilty sentence reversed and remanded for a new trial.

To Help Clarify
Relating Video to Case #3
In the case of Hotz v State, it was ruled that since the drug was ingested voluntarily that the defendant (in the eyes of the court) could "understand the nature of his actions"(as stated in the video) and could comprehend that he was making a wrongful decision in ingesting the drug with a high potential of risk. Hotz's legal defense entered an insanity plea and proceeded to fight the case under the pretense of an insanity defense until just before the closing of the trial where the judge dismissed the insanity defense from the case. Hotz, under the false pretense that he was being tried under the insanity plea and that the jury was instructed to do so, demanded a retrial. It was ruled by the Supreme court that "because Silverman (the judge) waited until the trial was nearly over, Hotz’s ability to defend himself was compromised."

While most cases ruled against drug related insanity pleas, there was much controversy in reaching that conclusion. The general verdict however is that drug use alone is not enough evidence to prove insanity. There must be an underlying issue such as a mental disease etc.

Substance Abuse
Effects of the Drugs used
Stimulant that in rare cases can provoke psychotic tendencies if taken by someone that does not have A.D.D. Since Adderall increases the neurotransmitter dopamine, it's commonly abused to achieve a sense of euphoria.
Steroids like testosterone can cause aggressiveness in a person and alter their moods with anger outbursts.
In small doses can cause a pleasant experience, but in higher doses can cause perceptual and body image changes that are accompanied by hallucinations. Psilocybin has been reported to help treat depression for some people and in extreme cases can cause mental problems and induce the first stages of schizophrenia-like psychosis.
most highly abused illicit drug, low to moderate doses produce euphoria and relaxation, some mental confusion regarding space/time as well as impaired memory.
History of the Insanity Plea
Timothy Courtois, 50

Pulled over on Maine Turnpike going 112 mph with multiple firearms.
Told investigators he was going to NH to kill shoot his former employer.
Also stated that he brought firearms into the same Batman movie one day after the Colorado movie theater shooting happened.
Prosecutor did not contest insanity plea. Judge ordered Courtois to be held in custody of state Department of Health.
Affidavit filed by special agent of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives found that
Courtois lied on a firearm consent form, stating that he did not use illegal drugs
Courtois asked investigators to buy him marijuana so he could smoke.
Faces a federal charge of making a false statement to acquire a firearm and for obtaining firearms as an illegal drug user.
Daniel M'Naghten Case:
Assassinated England Prime Minister Peel's secretary in 1843. First insanity defense and adopted in the United States shortly after.
John Hinckley Case:
Attempted to assassinate President Ronald Reagan and was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 1982. Created a reform called the Insanity Defense Reform Act in 1984. Called for insanity defense reform through changes in evidence used, evaluation, and custody and release of defendants.
Of the tens of thousands of cases each year, only about 20 people are found guilty except insane.
Many jurors in court are hesitant to find a defendant not guilty because they believe they will be released immediately and freed of charges.
In many horrific cases where the defendant is deemed guilty by reasons of temporary insanity, due to public outrage at the nature of the crime the defendant must serve the duration of their sentence in a state mental health facility and can no longer be released before then.
The temporary insanity plea was replaced with a plea of guilty except insane.
Defendants now must provide "clear and convincing evidence" that they could not distinguish right from wrong at the time of the crime. Use of drugs or alcohol generally is not considered to be a factor.
Insanity Plea Rules
M'Naghten Rule
: "A person is not held criminally responsible if at the time of the offense, the person was under a defect of reason not to know the nature/quality of the act they were doing was wrong."
Durham Rule
: "An accused person is not criminally responsible if the unlawful act was the product of a mental disease or defect."
ALI Rule
: "A person is not responsible for criminal acts if at the time of the crime, the person cannot understand the wrongfulness of the crime. "
Do you agree with our group opinion? Why or why not?
Do you think the consequences are fair for drug induced crimes?
Do you think legalization of some of these drugs would increase crime rate and potential insanity pleas? How does this relate to the marijuana debate?
Thanks for watching!
Determining Insanity
Arizona and Most States:
Three mental health experts evaluate a defendant to determine if he/she is sane.
Clear evidence that the defendant did not know act was wrong.
Drugs and alcohol are normally not considered.
Psychiatric Security Review Board used to monitor progress of defendants.
Example Case #2
Patrick Russell, 61 - Judge Mark Switalski - Attorney Dennis Johnston
Car accident that killed Mary Kerman, 91, injured husband & daughter
“He has long-term cocaine abuse and addiction, along with alcohol use. [...] That is recognized as legal insanity in a legal sense. I would be remiss on his behalf if I didn’t pursue it.” Johnston (Macomb Daily)
Russell has been an addict since age 21
Insanity claim
by the court

Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Steven Fox: “Drug use alone does not meet the criteria for insanity. There has to be a medical issue.”
“I am not aware of any medical support for the motion. He is able to understand the proceedings and make decisions about the proceedings.” Switalski
Full transcript