A Humboldt County Superior Court judge recently ruled that he will not be seeking a third psychiatric expert to evaluate accused murderer Gary Lee Bullock’s insanity plea, reasoning that he was only legally obligated to hire two. Gary Bullock will be standing trial for bludgeoning to death Friar Eric Freed at St. Bernard Catholic Church back on New Year’s Day, 2014. He also allegedly attempted to burn Freed’s body and blow up the rectory before stealing the victim’s car.
According to California state law, Bullock’s trial will be bifurcated as a result of his plea. This means that the first portion of the trial will have the jury determine whether or not he is guilty of the charged offenses. Then, if the jury returns a guilty verdict, it must follow Section 8 of the California State penal Code (known as the M’Naghten Rule) in order to determine whether Bullock was legally insane at the time of the accused act.
Bullock’s trial was delayed six times when the psychiatric evaluations were pushed back. Jury selection for Bullock’s case began last month.
California’s Insanity Defense
Under the insanity plea (aka M’Naghten Rule), a defendant will be found not guilty if he or she can prove by the “preponderance of evidence that s/he was incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of the act, and of distinguishing right from wrong at the time of the commission of the offense.” It is an affirmative defense to a crime and stems historically from society’s viewpoint that defendants who are mentally incapable of controlling their conduct should not be held responsible (ie. suffering from severe mental illness).
In California, the defense is not codified in a specific statute, but in the Judicial Council of California Criminal Jury Instructions § 3450. Under California’s insanity defense, you are considered legally insane if you:
- Did not understand the nature of your criminal act and
- Did not understand that what you did was morally wrong.
When this defense is utilized, the experts hired by the court may be called as witnesses during trial and can been questioned and cross-examined by the defense and prosecution. It should also be noted that this defense rarely wins, and one may be sentenced to a treatment center instead of prison even if the defense is successful.
The insanity defense is different from the defense of “diminished capacity.” The insanity defense is a full defense to a crime, while the diminished capacity defense allows one to plead to a lesser crime.
San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney
At the Law Offices of David M. Boertje, we understand that mental illness can cause severe impairments. We will utilize all specialists, psychiatrists, and mental health professionals if there is reason to believe that you were suffering from a mental incapacity that rendered you incapable of controlling your own actions. We will request sanity hearings on your behalf, or alternatively, try to plead down for you if appropriate. Contact us today at at (760) 476 0901 or visit us online.