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Orange County Bar Association

Proof of Insanity

Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo

Rodney Alcala has been charged with five murders that allegedly occurred during the 1970’s. One charge is for the murder of Robin Samsoe who was 12 years old at the time of her disappearance from Huntington Beach. The other four murders are out of Los Angeles County and have been combined with the Orange County case. Mr. Alcala denies committing the Orange County murder and is pleading not guilty by reason of insanity to the Los Angeles cases. He has refiled a severance motion that will ask to separate the Los Angeles cases from the Orange County case. For the District Attorney taking care of many cases at once is a matter of efficiency; meanwhile, for the defense having them together hurts the client because it can paint a more heinous picture of the defendant.

To make a case for insanity the defense must prove a mental defect at the time of the crime. According to the Criminal Jury Instructions insanity is a defense when the deficiency has made the defendant unable to distinguish or understand that what he did was legally or morally wrong. Being addicted to drugs or alcohol does not qualify as being insane. Other instances that do not qualify as proof of insanity are adjustment disorders, personality disorders or deviant behavior based on the crimes. The defense attorney must prove during a trial that a defendant was insane at the time of the crime and the jury will decide if the evidence supports the claim of insanity. The insanity phase of a trial occurs after the Defendant has been found guilty of having committed the crime. Accordingly, in a trial with an insanity plea, there are two trials, one on the facts and the other on the question of whether the Defendant was insane at the time of the alleged offense. If a Defendant is found guilty on the facts of the crime but found insane at the time, then he will be in custody until he is declared sane by the state authorities. At no time will the Defendant be released prior to six months elapsing.

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