COA: Jury properly rejected defendant’s insanity defense

November 5, 2015

Because there was evidence that a defendant’s mental state at the time he stabbed his estranged wife was due to voluntary intoxication, the jury properly rejected his insanity defense, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Thursday.

Tommy Orlando Townsend Jr. and Zaida Ortiz separated after 19 years of marriage. She moved into an apartment, and discovered him in it Easter morning 2014 without her permission. He wanted to talk about calling off the divorce and then pushed her down and stabbed her multiple times. Instead of calling for help, he drove her around and eventually ended up at a relative’s home in Ohio. The relative took Ortiz to the hospital.

At the time of the stabbing, Townsend had taken one or two capsules of over-the-counter cold medicine and 50 milligrams of Flexeril, a prescription muscle relaxant that he received from Ortiz.

After he was criminally charged, Townsend said he intended to offer an insanity defense. Two doctors testified that he was psychotic at the time of the incident, but that it was brought on by his voluntary consumption of the medicine. He was convicted as charged, but only had convictions entered for Class A felony burglary and Class B felony criminal confinement. He was sentenced to a total of 55 years.

“We conclude that the jury properly rejected Townsend’s insanity defense because there was evidence that his mental state at the time of the offenses was due to voluntary intoxication rather than a result of mental disease or defect,” Judge Terry Crone wrote.

The COA found any error in instructing the jury on demeanor was harmless. The trial court gave the state’s tendered instruction, but refused his on that issue.

“Given the substantial evidence of Townsend’s voluntary intoxication, we can say with complete confidence that a reasonable jury would have rendered a guilty verdict had the trial court agreed to give both instructions or refused to give either instruction,” Crone wrote.

They also held that the lower court did not abuse its discretion by declining to find that temporary mental illness was a mitigating factor and found Townsend’s sentence to be appropriate.

The case is Tommy Orlando Townsend, Sr. v. State of Indiana, 02A03-1503-CR-90.


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