• A person is not responsible for having engaged in prohibited conduct if, as a result of mental disease or defect, he was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct at the time of the offense.
• This provision describes the mental disease or defect that constitutes a complete defense to criminal liability, commonly referred to as the insanity defense.
• [A] defendant in Indiana can avoid criminal responsibility by successfully raising and establishing the “insanity defense.”
• The rationale underlying the insanity defense is that a legally insane person is unable to form the requisite criminal intent.
Presumption of sanity
• It is clearly the law in this State that the defendant in a criminal prosecution is presumed to be sane.
See Clay v. State, 572 N.E.2d 1362, 1364 (Ind. Ct. App. 1991), trans. denied(“The law presumes a criminal defendant is compos mentis, that is, has the use and control of his mental faculties at all stages of a criminal proceeding.”)
• “In a criminal case it is convenient to require the accused, if he wishes to raise the question of sanity, to produce evidence of his insanity. This saves the state the fruitless trouble of proving sanity in the great number of cases where the question will not be raised. The vehicle for accomplishing this saving of time is the presumption of sanity.”
• Keeping in mind the purpose and nature of the presumption of sanity, it logically follows that the only burden imposed by the presumption is the burden of producing evidence[,] which is imposed upon the defendant. The burden of persuasion, however, rests at all times upon the State.
• The insanity defense is an affirmative defense for which the defendant has the burden of proof.
Burden of proof
• [T]he burden of proof is on the defendant to establish the defense of insanity (IC 35-41-3-6) by a preponderance of the evidence.
• The defendant bears the burden of establishing the insanity defense by a preponderance of the evidence.
See Nagy v. State, 505 N.E.2d 434, 439 (Ind. 1987)(citing Green v. State, 469 N.E.2d 1169, 1171 (Ind. 1984))(“When a defendant enters a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, he bears the burden of proof on the issue by a preponderance of the evidence.”)
See also Kelley v. State, 2 N.E.3d 777, 783 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014)(citing Thompson v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1146, 1149 (Ind. 2004))(“In order to succeed with an insanity defense, the defendant must establish the defense by a preponderance of the evidence.”)
• “Preponderance of the evidence” means “[t]he greater weight of the evidence, not necessarily established by the greater number of witnesses testifying to a fact but by evidence that has the most convincing force.” Thus, a defendant must convince the trier of fact that, in consideration of all the evidence in the case, he or she was more probably legally insane than legally sane at the time of the crime.
• The defendant must establish both that (1) he or she suffers from a mental disease or defect and (2) the mental disease or defect rendered him or her unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct at the time of the offense.
See Berry v. State, 969 N.E.2d 35, 38 (Ind. 2012)(“[A] defendant has to prove that he could not appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time of the offense due to some mental disease or defect.”)
See also Reed v. State, 693 N.E.2d 988, 991 (Ind. Ct. App. 1998)(citing 22 C.J.S. § 101)(“Thus, in order to rely on insanity as a defense, a defendant must demonstrate not only that her perception was impaired, but also that the impairment was caused by a severely abnormal mental condition.”)
Definition and interpretations of “mental disease or defect”
• “[M]ental disease or defect” means a severely abnormal mental condition that grossly and demonstrably impairs a person’s perception, but the term does not include an abnormality manifested only by repeated unlawful or antisocial conduct.
• The statute . . . does not deal with every “medical condition.” Rather, it turns on the presence of a “mental disease or defect,” which connotes a disorder naturally occurring or condition of the mind, as opposed to an induced condition (whether self-induced or otherwise).
• [An expert witness] testified that [transient ischemic attack (TIA)] is a medical condition, commonly known as a small stroke, where constricted blood vessels in the brain and a decreased pulse rate cause a person to lose oxygen to the brain. [The expert witness] further stated that, as a result of the condition, a TIA patient might become confused, lose the ability to exercise good judgment and be unable to determine how to get “from point A to point B." . . . [The defendant] is arguing that her inability to voluntarily and knowingly commit theft was caused by a physical condition, manifested in a person of a sound mind. Although that physical condition affected her mental state, allegedly causing her to become confused, disoriented, and to suffer memory lapses, these symptoms were not the result of a severely abnormal mental condition. Therefore, [the defendant’s] mental impairment was not a mental disease or defect.
Severity of the mental disease or defect
• Not all mental conditions are serious enough to relieve one of criminal responsibility.
• It is not every slight aberration of the mind, nor every case of slight mental derangement, that will excuse a person for the commission of an act in violation of the law.
Swain v. State, 18 N.E.2d 921, 924 (Ind. 1939), cert. denied 306 U.S. 660 (1939)
• A diagnosis of mental illness is not in itself a defense to a crime. To rise to the level of a defense, the illness must be so severe as to render the defendant unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of the criminal conduct.
See Lyon v. State, 608 N.E.2d 1368, 1370 (Ind. 1993)(quoting IC 35-41-3-6)(“Mental disorder alone is not enough to excuse a defendant for the perpetration of a crime. The defect must be to such an extent that he was ‘unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of the conduct at the time of the offense.’”)
• The insanity defense concerns the defendant’s mental state at the time of the crime.
• The trier of fact must make its determination as to whether the defendant was insane at the time of the offense using only evidence and considerations that are relevant to the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense.
• [W]hat may or may not happen to the defendant in the future cannot be considered.
Determining whether the mental disease or defect rendered the defendant unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct
• Whether a defendant appreciated the wrongfulness of his or her conduct at the time of the offense is a question for the trier of fact.
Kelley v. State, 2 N.E.3d 777, 783 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014)(citing Thompson v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1146, 1149 (Ind. 2004))(“Whether a defendant can appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct is a question for the trier of fact.”)
Relationship to behavioral problems and emotional stress
• [B]ehavorial problems do not constitute insanity that will relieve one from criminal responsibility . . . .
• [The defendant] places great weight on evidence of emotional stress and unusual behavior on his part; while these may have existed, they do not automatically require that [the defendant] be found insane. Many people who commit crimes have emotional problems and behave abnormally. The very fact that a person commits a violent crime indicates that he has difficulty functioning normally in society. But to be relieved of criminal responsibility for his acts, a person must meet the legal standard of insanity.
Relationship to mental and intellectual deficiency
• Low mentality standing by itself does not constitute insanity as defined by the law.
• [The defendant] maintains that his low mentality alone should constitute insanity as defined by law. [The defendant] acknowledges our contrary holding in Wilson, but seeks a reversal of that holding and a new standard which automatically would place mentally retarded people in the category of those considered legally insane. . . . The error in [the defendant’s] proposed standard is that it treats all mentally retarded people alike, ignoring different capabilities and levels of understanding.
Relationship to the use of alcohol
• The heavy use of alcohol over an extended period of time can be a valid basis for an insanity defense.
• However, a finding of insanity is not compelled merely because a particular defendant who asserts that defense has a history of prolonged and heavy use of alcohol.
See Berry v. State, 969 N.E.2d 35, 43 (Ind. 2012)(“Certainly, not all chronic alcoholics have destroyed their mental faculties to the point where they suffer from a mental disease as defined in Indiana’s insanity statute.”)
• Rather, the trier of fact must determine whether a defendant’s extensive abuse of alcohol and consequent mental degeneration has in fact resulted in insanity.
Relationship to battered women’s syndrome
• [W]e conclude that the legislature has determined that, where the defendant claims that battered women’s syndrome has affected her ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct, she must proceed under the insanity defense.
• For more information about battered women’s syndrome and the insanity defense, please review Effects of Battery Statute.
Relationship to automatism
• For information about the relationship between the insanity defense and automatism, please review Automatism.
Relationship to competency
• There are recognized and significant differences between a defendant who is insane at the time of the alleged criminal act and one who is incompetent to stand trial.
• A person is legally insane at the time he commits an otherwise criminal act and is not responsible for his criminal conduct, “if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity . . . to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct . . . .”
• One who is legally incompetent to stand trial, on the other hand, does not have the sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding and does not have a rational as well as factual comprehension of the proceedings against him.
• For more information about competency, please review Competency.
• Indiana law recognizes the defense of “temporary insanity.”
See Lawson v. State, 966 N.E.2d 1273, 1282 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), trans. denied(citing Galloway v. State, 938 N.E.2d 699, 714 (Ind. 2010), reh’g denied)(“Indiana recognizes claims of ‘temporary insanity’ . . . .”)
• “Temporary” is defined as “Lasting for a time only; existing or continuing for a limited time; not permanent . . . .”
See Black’s Law Dictionary ? (10th ed. 2014)(“Lasting for a time only; existing or continuing for a limited (usu[ally] short) time; transitory.”)
• The law thus allows for the possibility that a defendant will be legally insane at the time of the crime, but compos mentis immediately before and immediately after the crime.
See Lawson v. State, 966 N.E.2d 1273, 1282 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012), trans. denied(citing Galloway v. State, 938 N.E.2d 699, 714 (Ind. 2010), reh’g denied)(“[T]here is the possibility that a defendant may be legally insane when a crime is committed but apparently sane immediately before and after the crime.”)
• Under a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity the issue is the accused’s state of mind at the time of the offense. The duration of any mental disease or disorder is of no consequence, provided that it exists at the moment of the offense.
• In Indiana we do not recognize degrees of insanity.
• [A]s a matter of law, a person is either sane or insane at the time of the crime; there is no intermediate ground.
• [W]ithin the ambit of the terms comprising the definition of legal insanity “complete mental incapacity [must be demonstrated] before criminal responsibility can be relieved.”
• [M]ere mental disease, mental defect, or weakness of intellect, which, to a layman, might be described as ‘partial actual insanity,’ will not provide the defense of insanity in this state because any of these characteristics might be present—and still not constitute legal insanity.
Overcoming the defense
• The existence or non-existence of insanity does not negate the necessity of the State to prove the required elements of the crime.
See Beatty v. State, 567 N.E.2d 1134, 1138 (Ind. 1991)(citing Van Orden v. State, 469 N.E.2d 1153, 1157 (Ind. 1984), reh’g denied, cert. denied, 471 U.S. 1104 (1985))(“The assertion of the insanity defense does not negate the necessity of the State to prove the required elements of a crime.”)
• “The State must prove the offense, including mens rea, beyond a reasonable doubt but need not disprove insanity.”
Kelley v. State, 2 N.E.3d 777, 783 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014)(citing Thompson v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1146, 1148 (Ind. 2004))(“The State must prove all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt, but need not disprove insanity.”)