Purposeful and Knowing Intent And The Insanity Defense
- December 9, 2013
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A defendant pled guilty to kidnapping, attempted murder, burglary, weapons charges and other criminal charges in two incidents involving his wife and mother-in-law then sought post-conviction relief based on a claim that he was under the influence of prescription medication at the time the plea was entered and he was misled by counsel as to the terms of the plea agreement and inadequately informed as to potential defenses of insanity and diminished capacity. Without the benefit of an evidentiary hearing, the Essex County Superior Court Judge denied the defendant’s petition. The defendant, while in a Marine Corp combat unit, suffered a head injury while skydiving which caused him to experience blackouts and he also claimed to hear voices. While incarcerated and awaiting trial at the Essex County Correctional Facility, a psychiatrist found the defendant to be confused. He was also placed on suicide watch while awaiting trial as well as medicated. A psychological evaluation to determine competency to stand trial resulted in the finding defendant was bipolar and suffering serious depressive disorder but competent to stand trial. A pre-trial psychological evaluation revealed that, when defendant regained awareness and realized he was choking the victim, he called 911 requesting assistance for her. It was opined that Njango could not have formed the purposeful and knowing intent required to find guilt, nor could the attack have been premeditated. The State’s psychiatrist found defendant to have an intact memory and incapable of meeting the criteria to utilize an insanity defense. The NJ Appellate Division, in State v. Njango, rejected defendant’s argument that he was under the influence of prescription medication however, the Appellate Division did find he had a colorable defense based on a medical report indicating he was suffering from dissociative disorder and major depressive disorder as to one indictment and as to whether the defense was raised, or even discussed, as to the second indictment. Neither of defendant’s plausible issues was raised at the time the plea was entered and no waiver of the insanity defense or other incompetency defense was discussed at the time of the plea. After review of the matter, the court decided to reverse the decision of the Essex County Superior Court Judge and remand for an evidentiary hearing. If you have been charged with criminal activity the impact of a guilty finding or plea can be devastating on your future. Although many individuals are well acquainted with their rights, there are complexities in the law that dictate individuals are best served by obtaining experienced counsel to represent them. For more information about burglary, weapons charges, defenses or other crimes in New Jersey visit HeatherDarlingLawyer.com. This blog is for informational purposes only and not intended to replace the advice of an attorney.