Brief Fact Summary. In January 1979, a police officer’s body was found in a park restroom with an unusual note on his back. The note was addressed to an FBI agent and contained an indecipherable string of words and phrases. Once the FBI agent was contacted, the police were led to the defendant. Defendant was charged with murder and sought to use the insanity defense at trial.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. In order to overcome evidence of insanity, the state must demonstrate through expert or lay testimony, or through the showing of acts or statements of the defendant at or near the time of the commission of the crime, that the defendant’s statements or actions were consistent with sanity and inconsistent with insanity.
Defendant, Green was charged with the murder of a police officer. The officer’s body was found lying in a pool of blood in a park restroom. On the officer’s back was a note wrapped in plastic. The note was addressed to an FBI agent named Ray Hanrahan and contained an indecipherable string of words and phrases. Hanrahan told police that Green came to his office and told him that some people in New York were sending messages to his brain and that a doctor in New York had invented a machine that could detect these matters. Hanrahan thought Green had mental problems and he suggested to him at the time to go and seek medical help. Green did in fact have mental problems stemming back to his childhood. In school he was known to pick fights with other children for no reason, and at age twelve he attacked his mother with a knife. Green was somewhat of a loner during his teenage years, refusing to bathe and walking around outside all night. He was given psychiatrist treatment on several
occasions. In June 1978, he entered into the Navy reserves, but was discharged for failure to adhere to regulations. When he returned home from the Navy, he began resuming old behaviors like walking the streets at night and fighting with a knife. He told his parents there were people in the apartment building tampering with his brain. In the latter part of 1978, he stole money from his parents and moved in with his uncle until he was forced out of the house due to his bizarre behavior. Green then lived with his aunt for two weeks. His aunt testified that Green talked to himself and refused to bathe or even leave the house. When a local psychiatrist told his aunt Green needed immediate help, she gave him an ultimatum. Green’s father tried to persuade him to go back to New York, but he refused. His father bought him a pair of shoes, paid for a hotel room for him and gave him so money. Two months later, defendant was arrested and charged with the police officer’s murder. Initially, Gree
n was declared unfit to stand trial and was placed in a mental health institute where staff found him “insane at the time of the offense” and diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. After intensive drug therapy, Green was found competent to stand trial. He told mental health staff that voices told him if he killed, he would be Adolf Hitler. At trial, green offered both expert and lay testimony to establish an insanity defense under the Model Penal Code test. The state’s rebuttal evidence consisted of the testimony of five police officers who had come into contact with Green prior to the incident. They all stated he was cooperative, coherent and did not display any bizarre behavior. The jury found Green guilty of first-degree murder.
Issue. Were the actions of the defendant at or near the time of the incident both consistent with sanity and inconsistent with insanity?
Held. No. Defendant’s conviction is set aside.
There was undisputed testimony from medical experts that a paranoid schizophrenic can operate in a seemingly normal way. Even though the state tried to insinuate that Green was faking his symptoms the record clearly refutes that theory. Using the Model Penal Code, the burden of proof was on the state to establish that at the time of the offense the defendant was not suffering from a mental disease or defect or that if he was, his illness did not prevent him from knowing the wrongfulness of his conduct and from conforming his conduct to the requirements of the law.
The state argued that defendant knew the wrongfulness of his act because he left the scene and tried to hide the weapon. However, there are no facts to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant attempted to conceal his identity or was able to appreciate the wrongfulness of his act. Even if we conceded his post-event behavior showed an appreciation for wrongfulness, the record is without evidence that at the time he shot the officer, defendant was able to conform his conduct to the law. The state’s argument ignores the nature of paranoid schizophrenia.
Discussion. While the actions of the defendant at or near the time of the killing were arguably consistent with sanity, they were not also inconsistent with insanity. Therefore, the state did not produce enough evidence to meet and overcome evidence of insanity.