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Call Me Crazy

When the accused reject a not-guilty plea, Colorado's insanity law breaks down.

"If they want to enter NGRI, if I don't have any choice, I'll let them do that," Thorson says. "I'm not going to waste my time. Tom was a good example: Every doctor was saying he was insane, and to try that case probably would been a waste of time. I insisted on a jury trial -- murder is one of them where you can -- because I knew the judge was going go with the doctor.

"I can argue common sense with a jury, but it would have been an uphill battle with all the doctors."

Lusero also believes that Leask would have been found not guilty by reason of insanity if the case had been allowed to go forward. But after two years and mountains of briefs submitted from both sides, District Court Judge Kenneth Plotz decided to allow Leask to plead guilty.

Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.Attorney Jane Hazen was assigned to appeal Gwen Hendricks's case.Authorities believed Tom Leask (above) was insane when he went on a rampage in the town of Alma and shot sculptor and former mayor Willie Morrison (right) in cold blood.
David Hollenbach
Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.Attorney Jane Hazen was assigned to appeal Gwen Hendricks's case.Authorities believed Tom Leask (above) was insane when he went on a rampage in the town of Alma and shot sculptor and former mayor Willie Morrison (right) in cold blood.
Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.
Gwen Hendricks heard voices that foretold her husband's death.

Plotz declined to be interviewed about his reasoning in accepting the guilty plea, but Thorson says the judge seemed to rely heavily on the argument that a defendant has an absolute right to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty on his or her own behalf. "My understanding of the ruling is that he's saying that once [the defendant] enters a not-guilty plea, then a lawyer can choose which defenses to raise, but the decision to enter guilty or not guilty is absolutely up to the defendant," Thorson says.

Lusero stuck with the case up until the moment Leask was allowed to plead guilty. Then he resigned and walked out of the courtroom.

"I'm not at all sure Judge Plotz was wrong in his analysis of the law," Lusero says, "but if he is right, I think the law sucks. The reason why we don't let mentally ill people choose what they want to do is because they don't have the ability to reason. In these [insanity] cases, they're making probably the single most important decision of their lives."

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