The Chicago Tribune reports that a 22-year-old schizophrenic man was recently charged with murdering his cousin in Cook County. Supposedly the defendant was standing on the street with his cousin and a few other people when the group started making fun of the defendant for being mentally slow. Allegedly, the defendant responded by firing a semi-automatic handgun into his cousin’s neck, chin, and chest. The cousin died shortly after and now the shooter is charged with murder. While there are several ways to defend against a murder charge, arguing insanity may be a viable defense strategy for this particular defendant.
Illinois’ Insanity Defense
In Illinois, a person can not be held criminally responsible for their conduct if a mental disease or mental defect caused that person to lack the substantial capacity to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct, according to our state’s Criminal Code (720 ILCS 5/6-2). In other words, if a mental defect caused you to not appreciate the criminality of what you were doing while you were committing the crime, then the legal defense of insanity is available to you. Illinois’ insanity defense statute also notes that if a defendant was mentally ill at the time of the crime, but was not insane, then that defendant is still liable for his or her criminal act as it is possible to be found guilty but mentally ill in Illinois. However, in order to successfully claim the insanity defense, the defendant has the burden of providing clear and convincing evidence sufficient to prove that he or she was insane when the crime was committed and, therefore, is not guilty by reason of insanity.
This means that although the defendant in the murder case outlined above is a diagnosed schizophrenic, he does not automatically get to claim insanity as a defense. According to Illinois’ insanity defense statute, the defendant must show that his schizophrenia prevented him from appreciating the criminality of killing his cousin when he fired the fatal shots.
What Happens If I am Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity?
While a not guilty verdict is always a good thing to hear if you are the defendant in a murder trial, this favorable outcome does not necessary mean that the state will let you simply walk out of the courtroom and return to your everyday life. Often, defendants who are found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity are deemed to pose a danger to society and are therefore committed to a treatment center. While the exact process differs from case to case, these defendants are often held at the center until mental health professionals determine that it is safe for them to return to society.
What Can We Do to Help?
If you are being investigated in connection with a murder, or have already been charged, contact defense attorney David L. Freidberg to discuss your legal options and possible defenses. Our experienced criminal defense team offers a confidential consultation that can be scheduled by calling our office in Chicago (312-560-7100), DuPage (630-574-1000), or Skokie (847-674-5400).