You may be familiar with the insanity defense for those charged with a serious crime like murder, rape, robbery and other crimes that carry the death penalty, but you may not understand how it works. A defendant may be found not guilty by reason of insanity for serious crimes. However, what the outcome of such a ruling is that the Defendant is not insane. An insanity defense does not claim that a defendant is innocent, but rather that they did commit the criminal act, but are not legally culpable (viable) for their conduct because of their poor mental health.
Mississippi’s rules of criminal procedure are very clear that a person’s competency to stand trial is completely separate from whether a person was sane at the time of an alleged defense. Both competency and sanity require that there be a mental evaluation of the defendant. But whereas a competency evaluation determines whether the client understands the nature and seriousness of the crime, a sanity evaluation goes much deeper. It is at the sanity evaluation stage that an inexperienced lawyer fails to consider.
The biggest problem with asserting insanity, and therefore having a sanity evaluation, is that to assert the defense, a defendant and his lawyer are effectively admitting that the person committed the crime, but that the defendant suffered from such a mental disorder that they could not understand the gravity of their actions or the consequences. Not only that, but when the person goes for their mental evaluation, they must reveal all of the details of the underlying crime, and that information must be turned over to the prosecution if the lawyer continues to assert insanity as his client’s defense.
The biggest problem is that an inexperienced lawyer may not understand the legal hurdle that they have to overcome for a client to be found insane. Our attorneys at the Carmody Law Firm are experienced and are always up to the challenge to help defend our clients. While a person is presumed innocent until found guilty by a jury, Mississippi law also explains that a person is presumed sane. In other words, the burden shifts to the defendant to overcome the presumption of sanity, which means that at a trial, the jury is likely to learn that the defendant did in fact commit the crime, and the jury must then determine whether the person was insane at the time of the alleged crime.
How Does the Insanity Defense work in a Trial?
Successfully proving insanity can be very difficult. First, a defendant must show that the insanity existed at the time the crime occurred. Since sanity may exist both before and after the crime, it is possible for a defendant to claim temporary insanity, or that they were insane only for a short duration. Even if a defendant is found competent and sane in court, they may be able to mount an insanity defense based on their mental capacity at the time of the crime.
Second, a defendant must show that due to the insanity, they either (1) were not able to understand the consequences of their actions or (2) understood the consequences of their actions but were not able to tell that what they were doing was wrong.
Not only must a defendant prove all the elements above, they must do so by clear and convincing evidence, a high standard to meet. Clear and convincing evidence is somewhere between a preponderance of the evidence (typically 51% and over 49%), which is the standard used in civil cases and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the highest standard of prof in criminal law.
What should an Offender do if they are being Charged with a Crime?
If you have been searching the Mississippi area for a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney, look no further than Vic Carmody Jr., P.A. Over the years, we have helped numerous defendants pursue favorable outcomes. Although being accused of any crime is not a pleasant experience, there are many potential defense strategies that can be used to defend and reduce the charges against an offender. Call/contact us today for your free consultation to learn more.
Please also see us on mississippi-lawyers.com and view our reviews on avvo.com, superlawyers.com, and martindale.com. Our email address is mississippi-lawyers.com and our office phone number is (601) 948 – 4444 option 1.