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Justices sharply split on insanity defense case

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Faults in the state’s mental health system can’t be used to justify an insanity defense being rejected in favor of a different sentence that will keep a person locked up, an Indiana Supreme Court majority ruled.

But that holding isn’t without its critics, including two justices who worry that a mentally ill murderer from southern Indiana might be a danger to society.

The sharply divided 3-2 court ruled Wednesday on the case of Gregory L. Galloway v. State of Indiana, No. 33S01-1004-CR-163, a Henry County case involving an October 2007 murder. A man with a long history of mental illness murdered his grandmother, who he lived with at the time and with whom he appeared to have a good relationship.

On the day of his grandmother's murder, Galloway 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.

Charged with murder, Galloway was eventually found competent to stand trial. Two psychiatrists testified he was insane at the time of the stabbing, while a third psychologist initially found Galloway to be sane, but then retracted his opinion. After a cross-examination by defense counsel, the psychologist apparently learned more details about Galloway's behavior around the time of the stabbing.

Henry Circuit Judge Mary G. Willis found Galloway guilty but mentally ill and sentenced him to 50 years in prison, noting he had a history of mental illness for more than 20 years and that his family had unsuccessfully tried to have him institutionalized to avoid this type of violent behavior from happening. Judge Willis said she would have begged a mental health provider to keep him long term in a civil commitment, but providers did not, and that she didn't have the option to commit him for life to a mental health institution as she would like. With that, the judge felt she couldn't allow him to return to the community, and she determined that Galloway had failed to prove he was insane at the time of the stabbing.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals in a January decision affirmed the trial judge’s ruling and relied on Thompson v. State, 804 N.E.2d 1146 (Ind. 2004), which allows a fact-finder to disbelieve uncontradicted testimony from experts and lay persons and focus on facts in the record apart from that testimony. In this case, Judge Willis explained her 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.

But a sharply divided Indiana Supreme Court came out with a different result, reversing the local judge’s decision and essentially letting Galloway legally off the hook for the murder because of the insanity defense. Justice Frank Sullivan wrote for the majority and was joined by Justices Steven David and Robert Rucker.

The majority disagreed with the state’s contention that the change of opinion by the psychologist during cross-examination illustrates a conflict in testimony, finding that goes against past caselaw and that Judge Willis didn’t give any weight to the expert testimony in this particular case.

But central to what happened at the trial level, Justice Sullivan wrote that Judge Willis should not have turned to the state’s mental health system as justification for her decision.

“It was not appropriate, however, for the trier of fact to consider the condition of our State’s mental health system,” he wrote. “Although raising the insanity defense opens the door to examining the defendant’s entire life and allows in evidence that might otherwise be inadmissible under our rules of evidence, what may or may not happen to the defendant in the future cannot be considered. The trier of fact must make its determination as to whether the defendant was insane at the time of the offense using only evidence and considerations that are relevant to the defendant’s mental state at the time of the offense.”

Justice Sullivan delved into the history of the insanity defense going back to the 12th century, how it is based on common law principles, and how it has evolved in Indiana during the past century.

“It is not for the judicial branch to decide that a legally insane defendant should be convicted and sentenced to prison because of the condition of the State’s mental health system.” Justice Sullivan wrote. “Although such considerations may be relevant and appropriate during a commitment proceeding, they are not relevant or appropriate in determining whether the defendant was legally insane at the time of the offense. Thus, while we sympathize with the difficulty of the trial court’s decision, we cannot sustain it.”

Disagreeing with the majority, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote a dissent in which Justice Brent Dickson joined. The chief justice pointed out nuances about Galloway’s spotty mental history, how it reflected that he was mostly sane at times, and how it was more difficult to believe that he lost his sanity for a few brief seconds to commit this murder. Chief Justice Shepard addressed the third psychologist’s changing view as an effective cross-examination by defense counsel at trial.

The two dissenting justices took issue with appellate review trumping what happens at the trial level, as it’s those jurists who see the evidence and testimony firsthand. The chief justice also addressed Judge Willis’ use of the state mental health system in her decision making.

“The majority declares that it is not relevant what may happen as a result of this reversal by appellate judges. Not many of our fellow citizens would not recognize this disclaimer of responsibility as legitimate,” he wrote, referring to several examples of Galloway’s history and saying it is clear from the record that the man is a danger to others. “I mention this litany – just salient elements in an even longer story – to suggest that some innocent future victim is placed at risk by this Court’s decision to second-guess Judge Willis. A society that responds to such violence with tolerance should well expect that it will experience more violence than it would if it finally said, ‘This is unacceptable.’ Not knowing what I would say to the next victim, I choose to stand with Judge Willis and affirm the judgment of guilty but mentally ill.”

The county prosecutor plans to ask the Indiana Attorney General’s office to petition the justices to reconsider the ruling, in part on grounds that Justice David – who supported overturning the man’s conviction – wasn’t on the appellate bench when the oral arguments occurred. If the Supreme Court’s ruling stands, the prosecutor can petition to have Galloway committed to a state mental hospital for an indeterminate amount of time.

Galloway, 38, remains imprisoned at Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, according to a state Department of Correction online database.•

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  1. Do I have to hire an attorney to get co-guardianship of my brother? My father has guardianship and my older sister was his co-guardian until this Dec 2014 when she passed and my father was me to go on as the co-guardian, but funds are limit and we need to get this process taken care of quickly as our fathers health isn't the greatest. So please advise me if there is anyway to do this our self or if it requires a lawyer? Thank you

  2. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  3. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  4. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  5. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

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