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Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity May 21, 2010

Posted by Crazy Mermaid in Delusions, Hallucinations, Mental Hospital, mental illness.
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Wednesday’s Everett Herald featured an article about a young man who was acquitted of a first degree murder charge.  Chad Patterson, accused of breaking into the man’s home Sept. 10 and repeatedly trying to stab him with an 8-inch kitchen knife, was acquitted of the charges by Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry on Tuesday.  Verdict: Not Guilty By Reason of Insanity.

According to the article, three doctors concluded that at the time of the attack Patterson couldn’t understand that what he was doing was wrong.  The Judge ruled that there was enough evidence to support the defense’s position that Patterson was not guilty of the crime because he was legally insane at the time of the attack. Instead of jail time for a murder conviction, Patterson will be locked up indefinitely at Western State Hospital, receiving treatment for a mental illness.

I can already hear the complaints from the general public about this.  They’ll say the guy scammed the system.  That he got off scot-free. But let’s examine the facts of the case.

In what was said to be his first ever psychotic break with reality, Patterson was out walking his dog when he saw his neighbor watching him, preparing to attack him (so he thought).  Deciding he needed to “take care of” the neighbor, Patterson threw himself through a window to get into the neighbor’s house. Fighting off the teen, the neighbor pushed him outside, only to have Patterson return a second time.  He pushed Patterson out a second time, and Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies arrived as Patterson, bloodied and cut, was trying to get inside the man’s home a third time.

During the attack, Patterson said that God told him that the man needed to die. After he was arrested he told deputies that he was their god and demanded to be released from his handcuffs. But that’s not all.

Patterson was convinced someone had implanted a camera into his eye and a microphone into his ear, both likely symptoms of undiagnosed schizophrenia according to expert testimony. At the time of his attack on his neighbor, Patterson hadn’t been diagnosed with a mental illness and wasn’t under the care of a mental health doctor, despite the fact that his mother had been trying to get help for her son.  She was told that until he hurt himself or someone else there wasn’t anything that anyone could do about the situation.

According to Patterson’s defense lawyer, the insanity defense is rarely pursued because it is almost impossible to meet the threshold needed to prove someone is legally insane at the time of the alleged offense.  Adding to this, according to the public defender, is the fact that many offenders refuse to publicly acknowledge they’re living with a mental illness.  They’d rather go to jail than be diagnosed with a mental illness.

Those who think the insanity defense is a cake walk have another think coming. In fact, according to Frontline’s A Crime of Insanity, insanity defense acquittees frequently spend twice as much time institutionalized as defendants convicted of a similar offense spend in correctional facilities. And let us not forget what a mental hospital is really like. Locked doors, razor wire topped barbed wire fences all around the compound, structured days, institutional food.  Just like a jail, except for one added bonus feature you won’t find at a real jail.  In the mental hospital, you’re pumped full of drugs that try to bring your brain as close to “normal” as possible.

So contrary to what the general public thinks, those inhabiting mental hospitals rather than prisons don’t necessarily have it better.

Facts of case excerpted from: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20100519/NEWS01/705199838

Frontline’s A Crime of Insanity: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/crime/trial/faqs.html#gbmi),

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Comments»

1. Cristina Fender - May 22, 2010

Great reporting on a serious issue. It’s good that he’ll get the help he needs.

Contact me anytime.

Cristina

2. Astrid - May 22, 2010

I agree. State hospital commitment looks like an easy way out to the public, but it is not. In the Netherlands, people can be locked up for life for things like sexual violence, which you will normally get a few years for, if they are insane.

3. Gary Seven - May 22, 2010

In the state of Washington, persons found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity, (NGRI) are not required to take their medication unless the court of first intent, (trial court) later authorizes the forced medication in a separate hearing. So the defendant convinces a judge or jury that s/he was insane, (with a preponderance of the evidence, {AKA More Likely than Not or about 51% probability}) and then s/he refuses to take prescribed medication for the condition that s/he successfully proved (with 51% probability or accuracy) affected their mind at the time of the crime.

Crazy Mermaid - May 24, 2010

I wonder what it’s like in other States.


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