CRIMINAL LAW Insanity DefensePosted by BS - 10/06/10 at 10:06 am
State v. Okie, 2010 ME 6, 987 A.2d 495, Gorman, J.
The Law Court affirmed the defendant’s conviction for two murders in which he raised the insanity defense.
The chief issue raised on appeal was the trial court’s denial of the defendant’s request that the jury be instructed as to what happens to a defendant who is found not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. The Law Court reiterated its long-standing rule that such an instruction is inappropriate because of the distinction between the jury as a fact-finder and the court as the sentencing entity. The governing principle is that the jury should not be instructed on the consequences of possible sentences because it might influence them in determining guilt.
A second issue was the prosecutor’s comments to the jury that in order for the jury to find that the defendant had made out his insanity defense, he had to prove “[p]ublic insanity. Those sort of crazy of the crazy, the worst of the worst.” The Law Court held that, although this was “imprecise” and “colloquial” language, in the context of all of the testimony and the closings made by both parties, and particularly given that it was the defendant’s expert witness who raised the issue of “public” insanity, the statements did not constitute prejudicial error.
The defendant was sentenced to two consecutive terms of thirty years, and the Law Court affirmed those sentences without much discussion. It found that the trial court gave consideration to both aggravating and mitigating factors as to the length of the sentence. In making the sentences consecutive, the Court appropriately considered that the defendant’s conduct arose from different criminal episodes and the seriousness of his conduct in those multiple criminal episodes.