It seems that we spend a lot of time talking about mental illness in criminal courts these days. More than ever defendants are claiming that they were insane at the time of the crime. Or, they claim that the trial must be delayed because they are mentally ill and, therefore, incompetent to stand trial.
When the claims are valid they should be heeded.
Usually, that’s not the case. A prime example is the defendant we tried in Spalding County this week.
In 2010 he shot the lady he lived with twice in the head. He left her dead body on the floor and went out and got arrested on other charges. When he bonded out, he came back home and cut off the lady’s hair and put it in the toilet. Then he killed her pet ferret. He stuffed the lady’s body into a cedar chest. He put the ferret on her head. Then he got into her car and wrecked it, resulting in his second arrest on the same day.
While in jail he told his cellmate what he had done. He said he killed the ferret so it would look like he was insane.
Certainly, this defendant is unique. He revels in his uniqueness. Sometimes he wears women’s clothing. He says goofy things. He’s covered in eye-catching tattoos.
But, he’s not crazy. The court-ordered psychological evaluation confirmed that.
So, Monday we put him on trial for murder, aggravated assault, aggravated cruelty to animals, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime.
I braced for his antics. Anything was possible. Would he wear a dress to court? Would he drool all over the defense table? Would he sing gospel songs?
As it turned out, it could have been worse.
He did ask the court to replace his lawyer because he didn’t like Hispanic people. That didn’t work.
And he clawed at his eye during much of the trial. He even took his shoe off and scratched his eye with his toe.
You see, this guy has learned that society strives to avoid judging people who are different. He has mastered the art of manipulating our tolerance. He hoped it would help him wriggle out of some horrible crimes.
Instead he learned that we don’t have a verdict for “not guilty by reason of weirdness.” The jury convicted him on all counts.
Now, he can take his vaudeville act to prison.