Insanity defense doesn't fly for murder conviction appeal

A schizophrenic convicted murderer from Idaho won't be getting a chance at appeal from the US Supreme Court.

That's because the divided justices couldn't agree that the killer's mental illness somehow excluded him from normal court proceedings in the justice system. Three justices would have considered the appeal, but it was ultimately rejected.

John Joseph Delling was convicted of murder after killing two of his friends in 2007. Delling, a paranoid schizophrenic, believed that his friends were trying to kill him by, according to a psychologist in the trial, "taking his energy."

Idaho is one of five states that have passed laws to abolish the insanity defense for mentally ill criminals. State law says that conviction is legal as long as a criminal has an understanding of what he or she has done. But Delling's lawyers say the defense is rooted in American history and "strikes at the heart of the integrity of the criminal justice system."

“The law has long recognized that criminal punishment is not appropriate for those who, by reason of insanity, cannot tell right from wrong,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote.

However, Attorney General Lawrence G. Wasden says that Idaho law allows mentally insane people convicted of crimes the same judicial treatment as civilly committed insane people.

Right now Delling is incarcerated in a mental health facility where he is under the care of a psychiatrist.

Source: Bloomberg Business Week

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