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Court records show that Dunn has been granted a series of privileges over the years, and Grohs says it's her understanding that he is now living in the community while remaining under the care of hospital staff.

"He's doing well," she says, "because he received the proper treatment that he should have been getting all along."

Insanity" has two definitions under Colorado law. The first is someone who was "so diseased or defective in mind at the time" of the crime that he couldn't tell wrong from right. The second is someone who suffers from a "mental disease or defect" that prevented him from "forming the culpable state of mind" to commit the crime. For first-degree murder, that state of mind is "after deliberation and with intent" to kill. So in other words, if a person is so mentally ill that they couldn't have planned the murder or intended to kill anyone, they might meet the definition for insanity.

Private defense attorney Ed Farry, whose law firm is located in Colorado Springs, has a theory about when the insanity defense works and when it doesn't. To some extent, he says, the outcome of a case is dependent on the logic of the crime: "When things have explanations, defendants tend to lose. When things are inexplicable, then defendants tend to win. The more the conduct makes sense, the less likely the person is to be found not guilty by reason of insanity, irrespective of what the pointy heads say."

Revenge makes sense, he says. So does anger. A mother killing her infant because God told her it was the only way to save the human race does not. "There's a joke — it's a lawyers' joke — about insanity," Farry says. "The joke suggests the truly insane person is the person who breaks into my house and starts doing my laundry."

But he questions whether it will work for Holmes. What he did "looks much different than a mother killing her child," Farry says. "This is a guy who dresses up in black and goes to the Batman movie and kills people. He's an angry son of a bitch who flunked out of college, and the world hasn't treated him right, and 'I'll show you.' It makes sense. What wouldn't make sense would be to go to the Bambi movie and do it."

Farry has handled several insanity cases, including that of Sean Fitzgerald, who was 36 when he murdered his father in 2008. That crime didn't make any sense.

At about 2 a.m. on a Thursday in November, Fitzgerald walked into his parents' bedroom and stabbed his father, a prominent Colorado Springs orthopedic surgeon, as he lay sleeping. According to news accounts, Fitzgerald's mother woke up and, screaming, pushed Fitzgerald off of his father before calling 911. When the police showed up, Fitzgerald told them, "I did it. I killed my own father in front of my mother."

Before the murder, Fitzgerald was living with his wife and son in Thailand. He'd been growing increasingly paranoid that the government was following him, recalls Brien Cecil, who prosecuted the case for the district attorney's office, and shortly before he returned to Colorado, Fitzgerald was hit by a truck while riding his bike. Cecil says Fitzgerald thought someone was tailing him and rode the wrong way down a street in an attempt to escape. He hit his head, and the injury, coupled with his mental state, prompted his father to travel to Thailand and bring him back to Colorado Springs to get help. On the plane, Fitzgerald was convinced that his fellow passengers were CIA agents.

Back in Colorado Springs, Fitzgerald's dad took him to a neurologist, who didn't diagnose Fitzgerald with a mental illness but noted that he was suffering from paranoia and should undergo further testing. He prescribed some medication, including sleeping pills. That night, after taking the medication, Fitzgerald killed his father.

"There was no dispute between father and son. No argument, no grudges," Farry says. "None of that stuff ever existed, so it was an act that was otherwise inexplicable."

Fitzgerald reportedly told detectives that he thought his father was Satan. Family members suspected it was the medication that caused him to kill. Fitzgerald's statements, the family's theories and the paranoid way he acted when Farry first met him prompted the lawyer to hire a psychiatrist. When the psychiatrist concluded that Fitzgerald was insane, Farry wasn't surprised.

The state doctor who evaluated Fitzgerald agreed. But Cecil says prosecutors wanted to make sure. Fitzgerald had been calm after the murder, holding out his wrists for the police to handcuff him before they'd even asked, he says. And at the station, he had invoked his Miranda rights. To check that Fitzgerald wasn't faking his mental illness, the prosecution hired a third expert to review the first two reports. That expert didn't talk to Fitzgerald but concurred after reading the other doctors' conclusions.

"We had three separate professionals telling us that at the time of the offense, he was insane," Cecil says. "We had no evidence to the contrary except that he was calm afterward." Prosecutors could have argued that the mental evaluations were wrong and that Fitzgerald was sane and had killed his father for no reason. But Fitzgerald didn't seem like the type, Cecil says, and so the DA's office agreed to forgo a jury trial and hold a truncated trial before a judge. In September 2009, the judge found that Fitzgerald was not guilty by reason of insanity and sentenced him to the state hospital.

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14 comments
groundskeeperwilly
groundskeeperwilly

My take on people like this? haul their ass out east of Pueblo about 40-50 miles on the prairie, stake them naked over a fire ant nest.
Screw insanity defense, nuf said, no hand wringing, a painful miserable death.

sussmanbern
sussmanbern

Pleading insanity is a real gamble for a defendant; it means he has completely given up on an alibi, on denying he did it, on suggesting that there was justification or mitigating circumstances, etc.  He is openly admitting that he committed the murder and his one and only defense is that we should take pity on him because we are willing to believe he is sick.


This defense very seldom works in the real world.  In addition, there are are least two conflicting standards - the old M"Naughton Rule that he was so crazy that he didn't even know what he was doing - and the newer Durham Rule that he knew but really really really couldn't stop himself.  Either one is a real high hurdle.


Considering that the 'reward' for a successful insanity plea can be a lifetime locked in a psych ward - where he would have even fewer legal rights than if he were in prison - this defense is trotted out only for cases with a life or death sentence.  Frankly I think a lot of jurors are saying to themselves, "I don't care that he hears voices or sees phantoms.  I don't want this guy ever turned loose even twenty years from now.  Since I don't trust bleeding heart shrinks, I'd rather send him where he'll be locked in a cage forever or put to death."

Sterling Meeks
Sterling Meeks

Stop lying. You couldn't kill a cockroach if it was crawling right up your schnoz.

DeathBreath
DeathBreath

There are many people in this world who have never even seen someone who is floridly psychotic.  Then again, some people have witnessed bizarre behavior & not understood what they were seeing.  This frequently happens when Law Enforcement encounters those with altered states of consciousness.


I would like to share a video of an expert in the field of deception & malingering.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCnUlQt7YN0


If you are a mental health professional, you may be aware of this text:  http://www.amazon.com/Clinical-Assessment-Malingering-Deception-Edition/dp/1593856997/ref=tmm_hrd_title_0/181-7000442-2446242


I am providing this for public information.  I do not wish to argue with anyone who has never stepped foot inside prison or worked with within a forensic environment.  I have many years of clinical experience specific to this population. 

Tiffany Marie
Tiffany Marie

The fact someone could choose to plead insanity, in itself suggests intelligence. Most people who are truly insane are pitifully unaware of being so.

Kacey Ingram Jechura
Kacey Ingram Jechura

I was on the Clewis Green jury. We made the right decision, he clearly understood his actions were wrong evidenced through his own taped confession. He is mentally ill, he was also sane at the time of the crime. These things are not mutually exclusive, which Kossie-Butler seems to not understand.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

If they know they are insane by the acts they do then they are competent to die for what they did.

LindaLee Law
LindaLee Law

They get pampered instead of hard labor. If they are so mentally ill then hard labor won't hurt.

DonkeyHotay
DonkeyHotay topcommenter

... typical ignoramus, confuses intelligence with insanity.

thewreckingbelle
thewreckingbelle

Most defendants enter a plea based on the advice of their legal counsel, not their own intelligence or excellent decision-making.

 
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