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State v. McVey

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellant was precluded from offering evidence of diminished capacity for the crime of theft.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Diminished capacity is not a defense for general intent crimes.

    Facts. Appellant was charted with second-degree theft based on stealing a car and with attempting to elude the police. The Court ruled that Appellant could not present evidence on diminished capacity for these charges. The Trial Court ruled that because the crime of theft was a general intent crime, diminished capacity evidence could not be presented. Appellant argued that because the crime of theft requires knowledge that the property was stolen and thus a diminished capacity defense could be presented.

    Issue. Whether the defense of diminished capacity should be extended so that it is also an absolute defense to a general intent crime

    Held. Affirmed, the defense of diminished capacity should not be extended to general intent crimes.
    Diminished capacity permits proof of a defendant’s mental capacity on the issue of a defendant’s capacity to form a specific intent in those instances in which the State must prove defendant’s specific intent as an element of the crime charged.

    Diminished capacity as a defense is different from the defense of insanity on the ground it allows evidence of mental unsoundness establishing lack of capacity to form a requisite criminal intent rather than requiring proof of a more aggravated kind of thinking required for the absolute defense of insanity.

    Dissent. The dissent argued with this opinion the court was now excluding relevant evidence that related to a material element of the crime. The dissent argued that there is no reason not to allow diminished capacity as a defense to a general intent crime versus a specific intent crime.

    Discussion. The Court ruled a general intent crime is complete without intent to do a further act or achieve a further consequence that is the prohibited result. Because the State Legislature had defined the limits upon the effect of evidence of mental disease or defect relating to criminal culpability, the defendant would be precluded from showing diminished capacity eviden


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