In our last post, we took a closer look at the insanity defense. In that post, we discussed when this defense may be appropriate and the rules that are observed in Illinois courts regarding the insanity defense.
In this post, we want to remind readers that being found not guilty by reason of insanity is not the same as being found not guilty. In fact, in order for this theory to be effective, there needs to be enough evidence in place that would potentially convict a person facing charges. However, the consequences of being found not guilty by reason of insanity are much different than if a person had been found guilty, and may be more appropriate in helping a person who suffers from serious mental conditions.
A recent case in Illinois can provide some good information about how the insanity defense actually works. A man was on trial and charged with first degree murder. He had evidently killed a cellmate while they were detained in a correctional facility.
Reports indicate that the state had enough evidence to convict the man, but the defense argued that he did not understand "the criminality of his conduct," and therefore the insanity defense was appropriate. It was argued that the man acted in self-defense but that the perceived threat to which he was responding was not reasonable.
A judge found the man not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead of being sent to prison, which would have happened had he been convicted of first degree murder, the man is now at the Department of Human Services where he can receive help to address his mental health issues.
This is just one example of how the insanity defense can actually work in the courtroom. It should also be a reminder that being found not guilty by reason of insanity still comes with consequences.
Defense attorneys can play a vital role in identifying potential defense strategies and put them into practice so that a person is not wrongfully convicted or slapped with overly aggressive or inappropriate penalties. While an insanity defense will not be appropriate in most cases, there are several other ways to defend against charges and an attorney can be a critical resource in knowing which may be the best strategy.
Source: The Randolph County Herald Tribune, "Hazzard found not guilty by reason of insanity," Jan. 10, 2015