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COA affirms mentally ill man's murder conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals was compelled today by Indiana Supreme Court precedent to affirm a murder conviction for a man who was found guilty but mentally ill.

In Gregory L. Galloway v. State of Indiana, No. 33A01-0906-CR-280, Gregory Galloway argued he should have been acquitted on the defense of insanity in the stabbing death of his grandmother. Galloway has a long history of mental illness and was inconsistent with his treatment and taking medication. His family had attempted numerous times to have him institutionalized but couldn't find a place in state that provided long-term secure care. He was in and out of hospitals and facilities his entire adult life and has bipolar disorder, often with severe psychotic and manic symptoms.

He lived with his grandmother - who lived next door to his parents - and had a good relationship with her. But because of his mental illness, his behavior and state of mind could be unpredictable. He often heard voices or believed he could read people's minds.

On the day of his grandmother's murder, he spent the day with her running errands and having lunch without incident. When he returned home, he got a knife and stabbed his grandmother in the chest. Just after the incident, he felt remorse and cooperated with police. He said he thought he would feel better if he stabbed her but he did not.

Galloway was charged with murder and eventually found competent to stand trial. Two psychiatrists testified he was insane at the time of the stabbing; a psychologist initially found Galloway to be sane, but then retracted his opinion after learning more facts about Galloway's behavior around the time of the stabbing.

The trial court found him guilty but mentally ill and sentenced Galloway to 50 years in prison. Henry Circuit Judge Mary G. Willis noted how his family had tried to have him institutionalized, and she would have begged a mental health provider to keep him long term in a civil commitment, but providers did not. She also said she didn't have the option to commit him for life to a mental health institution, but she couldn't allow him to return to the community. Galloway had failed to prove he was insane at the time of the stabbing.

The Court of Appeals relied on Thompson v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1146 (Ind. 2004), to affirm the trial court's verdict. In Thompson, there was overwhelming evidence to establish Thompson's insanity, but the trial court found her guilty but mentally ill. The Supreme Court affirmed, reasoning that a fact-finder is free to disbelieve uncontradicted testimony and that the trial court is entitled to focus on the facts in the record apart from the uncontradicted expert testimony.

In the instant case, the trial court explained its decision was based on Galloway's repeated refusals to take his medication, his drug and alcohol abuse, the danger he posed to himself and society if he were acquitted, that he was able to interact with people and act appropriately on the day of the stabbing, and that he cooperated with police.

Thompson compels the appellate court to affirm the verdict if there is any evidence whatsoever supporting it, no matter how slight, wrote Chief Judge John Baker. The Court of Appeals sympathized with Galloway's position, but the trial court was free to disbelieve any expert and lay testimony.

"Although Galloway's conduct does not foreclose the possibility that he was legally insane at the time of the killing, we are compelled by Thompson to find that it was reasonable for the trial court to conclude that he behaved normally because he was, in fact, sane," wrote the chief judge.

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