Whether Patrick Mikes of Troy, Michigan was obeying the voices in his head when he pummeled his own father to death with a baseball bat is debatable. That the entire Troy community is buzzing with thousands of angry voices calling for swift 'old testament' style justice - is a fact.
What has the populace in such an uproar is the counter-intuitive notion that the criminal defendant may be held completely blameless on grounds of the defense of legal insanity.
A Troy criminal attorney informs the blog that, in a case like this, the defense of legal insanity is perhaps the only option. And the details do seem to lend themselves to that defense.
In fact, at the defendant's preliminary examination in the Troy district court, before Judge William Bolle, the criminal defendant's own brother testified that Patrick Mikes had mentioned, years ago - that he had been hearing voices in his head. That is important because, as any experienced murder attorney knows, jurors tend to be skeptical of the insanity defense where there is no evidence of prior mental illness in the defendant's past. Claims of temporary insanity are simply dismissed as 'made in Hollywood'.
In sum and substance, the elements of legal insanity are as follows: (1) Mental illness or mental retardation; (2) causing the inability to perceive reality, and/or; (2) causing the inability to control one's actions.
The law defines mental illness as a substantial disorder of mood or thought, which impairs a person's judgment, behavior, or capacity to recognize reality, or to cope with the ordinary demands of life. Psychiatrists typically boil all that to one word: Psychosis.
Thus, legal insanity may be found where, in the throws of a psychotic episode (1) the defendant perceives that he must kill in order to save his own life, and/or; (2) the defendant's conduct was driven by an irresistible impulse.
The public perception is that legal insanity is the recent invention of the do-gooders, the tree-huggers, the far-left lunatics and the like. In fact, the defense of legal insanity has been recognized by civilized societies around the world for thousands of years.
For example, the dusty old Latin phrase actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea comes straight from merry old England and English common law. Translated, this phrase means "the act does not make a person guilty unless the mind is also guilty." And the similar criminal elements of American law, actus reus and mens rea have been part of Michigan jurisprudence since long before Michigan was even a state. The phrase means that, in order to convict the defendant of a specific intent crime, the prosecutor must prove not only that the defendant committed the act, but also that he acted with a criminal mindset.
No doubt the steepest hurdle faced by the criminal defense attorney in this case is the statute that bars the jury from knowing the outcome of a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. In order to even consider the defense of legal insanity, it logically follows that the jury is assuming that the defendant committed the homicide (because if the jury determines that the defendant did not perpetrate the murder, they must find him not guilty, which brings the entire process to an immediate halt).
But once the jurors have determined that the defendant did, in fact, commit the criminal act, they must go on to consider the defense of legal insanity. Bearing in mind human nature, it is fair to assume that at that juncture, the jurors are wrestling with the concept that a "not guilty / insanity" verdict means that defendant walks free.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, under Michigan law, a criminal defendant found not guilty by reason of insanity, must be committed to the Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti, Michigan, for no less than 60 days. The Center for Forensic Psychiatry is a secure facility, the walls of which are topped with razor wire and the doors of which are always securely locked. In other words, the facility is a prison-like setting.
Moreover, after the expiration of the initial 60 day evaluation period, the criminal defendant's incarceration in the facility may be extended indefinitely, until and unless the psychiatrists and the psychologists determine that the defendant no longer poses a danger to himself or others and/or that he is no longer mentally ill. Unlike the vast majority of convicted defendants, therefore, defendants committed to the facility have no out-date whatsoever (even if they were found not guilty by reason of insanity). The reality is that the Center for Forensic Psychiatry is full of involuntarily committed patients who have been housed at the facility for decades on end.
All of which brings us back to the beginning. Will the Pontiac jury obey the voice of the law--or will the jurors, like the defendant in this matter, obey the voices in their own heads, imploring them to do the sure thing instead of the right thing?
In this case "who won the debate" is no mere parlor game - it's for keeps.
Troy Man Charged In Father's Killing Heard Voices, Brother Testifies / The Detroit Free Press October 4, 2012 /
Post by Hillard Fried