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Man loses insanity defense appeal

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A Marion County court correctly rejected the insanity defense entered by a man who suffers from bipolar disorder and alcoholism in his attempted murder bench trial, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled.

John Berry was on trial for attacking Tony Monday, a man helping Berry’s father renovate a house. The weekend prior to the attack, Berry drank heavily; the attack took place on a Monday. When police arrived, they found Berry’s behavior to be nonchalant and calm, he offered no resistance, and his speech was clear. He did give nonsensical answers as to why he attacked Monday.

A court-appointed psychiatrist and psychologist, as well as a psychiatrist hired by the defense, submitted reports and testified as to Berry’s mental status during the attack. None of the experts cited that Berry suffered delierum tremens, which is a type of settled insanity caused by the chronic abuse of alcohol, at the time of the attack. Two of the three experts testified that Berry suffered from bipolar disorder during the attack and didn’t appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct. One expert believed it was the consumption of alcohol that caused the attack.

The trial court rejected Berry’s insanity defense, but the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed, concluding Berry suffered from “settled insanity” due to his prolonged and chronic abuse of alcohol.

“The intersection of voluntary intoxication and insanity is murky at best,” wrote Justice Steven David for the court. “Certainly, not all chronic alcoholics have destroyed their mental faculties to the point where they suffer from a mental disease as defined in Indiana’s insanity statute. On the other hand, consumption of alcohol prior to committing an offense does not automatically rule out the insanity defense, as the underlying cause of a defendant’s behavior could be a mental disease.”

The justices ruled it’s ultimately up to the trier of fact to determine whether the defendant’s conduct was the result of a diseased mind, regardless of the source of the disease, or whether it was the result of voluntary intoxication.

They agreed that “settled insanity” is a mental disease or defect as defined by the insanity statute, but found conflicting evidence in this case whether Berry suffered from such a condition.

There was credible expert testimony that his behavior was caused by the voluntary abuse of alcohol and not a mental disease or defect, David wrote, so the justices affirmed the rejection of Berry’s insanity defense in John Berry v. State of Indiana, 49S04-1110-CR-611.

 

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