Michigan Court Discusses Presentation of an Insanity Defense in an Assault Case

Criminal defendants rarely lack grounds to assert the insanity defense, but when they present compelling evidence demonstrating that the defense applies, they can often avoid a conviction. As such, if a defense attorney makes mistakes that prevent a defendant from offering a valid insanity defense, it may constitute grounds for reversing a conviction, as shown in a recent Michigan assault case. If you are accused of assault or another criminal offense, it is smart to retain a skilled Michigan criminal defense attorney to evaluate what defenses you may be able to assert.

The Factual and Procedural History of the Case

It is reported that the defendant tackled his girlfriend, bit her neck, threw her to the ground, and pulled out her hair. When she proceeded into their house, he followed her and threatened to kill her and her disabled brother, whom the defendant also attacked. The defendant was charged with multiple assault crimes. The defendant presented an insanity defense at trial, averring that he had post-traumatic stress disorder and snapped prior to the incident.

Allegedly, the prosecution objected to the introduction of the defendant’s expert witness, a psychologist, on the grounds that his opinion was based on statements the defendant made outside of the doctor-patient relationship and therefore constituted hearsay. The court ruled that the facts on which the expert based his opinion had to be introduced into evidence, which ultimately resulted in the defendant testifying and being subjected to cross-examination. A jury found the defendant guilty on all counts, after which he appealed, arguing his attorney was ineffective regarding the presentation of his insanity defense.

Presentation of an Insanity Defense

On appeal, the court agreed with the defendant’s assertion, vacated his convictions, and remanded the matter for a new trial. While the court agreed with the trial court that the defendant’s statements were not made for the purposes of treatment and therefore were not admissible as statements made in the context of the doctor-patient relationship, the background information provided to the expert regarding the defendant’s medical history was not hearsay, as they were not offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.

The defendant’s attorney failed to argue that such statements were admissible for evaluation of the defendant, though, and instead required the defendant to testify. The court found that this negated the defendant’s entire theory of his case, and therefore, his attorney’s performance fell below the standard of reasonableness of a professional. As such, the court vacated the defendant’s conviction.

Talk to a Dedicated Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney

While people charged with assault crimes are not required to produce evidence in their defense, in some cases, offering an affirmative defense might help them avoid a conviction. If you are charged with assault or any other crime, it is advisable to talk to an attorney about your options for pursuing a just outcome. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is a dedicated Michigan criminal defense lawyer who can examine the facts of your case and develop arguments designed to help you seek the best legal outcome available. You can contact Mr. Bernstein through the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.

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