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Trial court erred in disregarding psychiatrists’ unanimous finding

January 28, 2014

A woman who brutally attacked her boyfriend’s minor child had her conviction overturned by the Indiana Court of Appeals on the grounds that the trial court did not have enough evidence to contradict the psychiatrists’ reports and find her guilty but mentally ill.

Tammy Lee Kelley was arrested and charged after an attack that left D.S., the minor child, with multiple stab wounds, including one that narrowly missed her kidney and another on her chest that partially collapsed one of her lungs.

Subsequently, Kelley was evaluated by two psychiatrists who both documented her mental disease and concluded she was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct at the time of the offense.

During a bench trial, no testimony was taken, the parties stipulated to the police reports and the two psychiatrists’ reports were offered along with some of D.S.’s medical records.

The trial court found Kelley guilty but mentally ill on the following: one count of criminal confinement as a Class C felony, battery of a person under fourteen resulting in bodily injury as a Class D felony, and resisting law enforcement as a Class A misdemeanor; and two counts of battery of a law enforcement officer resulting in bodily injury as Class D felonies.

On appeal, Kelley argued that the trial court could not find her guilty but mentally ill when the medical evaluations were unanimous that she was insane at the time of the incident and when there was no contradictory lay testimony.  

The state cited Thompson v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1146, 1149 (Ind. 2004) as giving the judge in this case the freedom to reject the expert testimony.

The COA reversed and remanded with instructions for the trial court to enter a finding of not guilty by reason of insanity.

“While it appears that there was limited foundation for the psychiatrists’ determinations, there is even less on which the trial court could have decided to disregard those determinations,” Judge Margret Robb wrote for the court in Tammy Lee Kelley v. State of Indiana, 09A04-1303-CR-98.

“In short, there was no lay witness testimony and little demeanor evidence from which the court could have deduced, contrary to the two psychiatrists, that Kelley was sane at the time of the incident.”



 

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