Still Crazy after All These Years

Paul Simon, the poet laureate of my generation, penned this phrase in his 1975 hit album of the same name. In 1843 Daniel McNaughton, in a misguided attempt to shoot Robert Peel the British Prime Minister, wounded his secretary, Edward Drummond, who died shortly after. The case spawned the first rules to apply when an accused claimed insanity as a defense to criminal conduct. The first pronouncement was, not surprisingly, known as the McNaughton Rules.

McNaughton was found “not guilty by reason of insanity” and ordered to a mental hospital for treatment. The theory behind the rule was that mental disease had robbed the accused of the ability to reason and distinguish right from wrong.

The House of Lords set forth the rule, first indicating that in criminal trials the sanity of the accused is presumed. A legal presumption requires a jury to first accept the premise as a fact. Presumptions are rebuttable, however. Under McNaughton, “the jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.”

Today the defense is codified in statutes in most states, particularly Connecticut. In recent news reports, attorneys for a man accused of murdering a Wesleyan University student have recently filed notice they intend to use the defense. Notice of the defense must be given to the prosecutor who then can seek an examination of the accused to rebut the defense.

Connecticut General Statutes, sec. 53a-13 provides: “(a) In any prosecution for an offense, it shall be an affirmative defense that the defendant, at the time he committed the proscribed act or acts, lacked substantial capacity, as a result of mental disease or defect, either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his conduct within the requirements of the law.”

The burden of proving the defense and the nature of the proof needed are formidable tasks for an attorney. The defense will not apply where the mental deficiency results form the ingestion of alcohol or drugs. No will it apply to repeated anti-social behavior or compulsive gambling.

As an affirmative defense the burden rests upon the defendant to prove the defense by a preponderance of the evidence. Remember, in a criminal trial the state has the burden to prove guilt by proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In contrast, the “preponderance of the evidence” is a lesser standard which we see in civil trials. We illustrate the difference by asking jurors to imagine the scales of justice in equipoise, balanced equally. If a party tips the scales, even slightly, in its favor by its proof then it has satisfied the “preponderance” standard.

Until recent years Connecticut juries were never told the probable outcome of a verdict of Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. They were left to speculate than an accused may end up walking the streets again. Now they are informed of the process of evaluation and commitment for treatment in a secure facility.

Release after such a finding has become increasingly more difficult. In 1975 Matthew Quintiliano, a 14 year veteran of the Stratford Police Department, shot and killed his first wife. Acquitted by reason of insanity he was released shortly after when it was found that he was “no longer a danger to himself or others.” He remarried and in 1983 murdered his second wife.

In another noteworthy case an acquittee housed at Connecticut Valley Hospital was on furlough walking the streets of Middletown when he killed a young child. Another acquittee, Leslie Turner, had been released after doctors testified that he was controlled on anti-psychotic medication. His mental disease was not cured. On his release he failed to take his medication and relapsed, killing his grandmother.

These instances have led to a very strict review by the Psychiatric Security Review Board (PSRB) before an acquittee can be released, especially, if like Paul Simon says he’s “still crazy after all these years.”

Rich Meehan is a senior partner in the law firm of Meehan, Meehan & Gavin, LLP, Bridgeport, Conn. For more information on Rich or his firm go to http://www.meehanlaw.com or http://www.ctdentalmalpracticelawyer.com, or e-mail Rich at rtm@meehanlaw.com

Source:http://blog.ctnews.com/meehan/2010/04/30/still-crazy-after-all-these-years/

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Man Gets 60 Years In Mother’s Murder

By Karen Florin
Published on 9/2/2009
The Day

Carson J. Mueller, whose mental illness and “psychotic beliefs” led him to murder his mother last December and blow up her Griswold home a week later during an attempted suicide, has been committed to the Whiting Forensic Institute for up to 60 years.

A three-judge panel imposed the sentence Tuesday in New London Superior Court after hearing testimony from a psychiatrist who evaluated Mueller over the past two months and determined that he is a threat to society and to himself and needs to be confined and monitored.

The sentence means that Mueller, who is 34, will be under the care of the Psychiatric Security Review Board for the rest of his life or until he is 94, should he live that long.

Mueller, who had become preoccupied with black magic and the occult, said his mother, with whom he had lived for most of his life, was abusive, and he had come to believe she was practicing black magic against him and posed a threat to his two children. He said he attacked his mother while she was sleeping in their Richardson Hill Road home on Dec. 28, 2009, and strangled her to death. He admitted to hiding her body under a pile of leaves and snow in the Pachaug State Forest.

A week after he strangled her, Mueller doused the house with gasoline, planning to shoot himself with a shotgun after lighting a match. He said he lit the match and caused an explosion that blew him out of the house onto a neighbor’s lawn. He called 911 from a Franklin gas station and confessed his crimes to first responders.

Charged with murder and first-degree arson, Mueller had notified the state he would be pursuing the insanity plea and opted to be tried by a three-judge panel. Judges Susan B. Handy, Robert C. Leuba and Joseph J. Purtill heard evidence in June and determined the state would have proven him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of murder and third-degree arson. The panel then found he was not guilty by reason of insanity because he was suffering from a major depressive disorder with psychotic features and from post-traumatic stress disorder. The panel committed Mueller to Whiting for two months for evaluation and reconvened Tuesday for the sentencing.

Prosecutor John P. Gravalec-Pannone elicited testimony from Dr. Mark S. Cotterell, a psychiatrist who evaluated Mueller at Whiting, before asking the judges to impose maximum sentences of 60 years for murder and 10 years of first-degree arson.

”There’s been a prior lack of treatment for mental health issues,” Pannone said. “Obviously that lack of treatment manifested itself in the killing of his mother and the suicide attempt.”

Cotterell testified that Mueller should remain, for now, at Whiting, which is a maximum-security facility at Connecticut Valley Hospital in Middletown. Cotterell said Mueller has major depressive disorder, chronic personality and character issues and major impairment “in several areas of function.”

Defense attorney Peter E. Scillieri said Whiting is an appropriate setting for his client.

”There is a need for Mr. Mueller to get help,” Scillieri said. “We don’t contest that.”

Scillieri asked what milestones Mueller would need to accomplish before he could be considered for a less-restrictive placement. Cotterell said Mueller would have to demonstrate a “significant reduction” in depression symptoms, an improved ability to relate to others and demonstrate that he could cope with stress appropriately. At Whiting, he will be kept on medication and engage in psychotherapy. His father, who lives in Washington State, will be notified of any changes in his confinement status.

Mueller, who sat silently throughout this and all of his other court proceedings, held his arms at his sides and shuffled back into the courthouse lockup when court adjourned.

David Messenger Hearing “Pending an Independent Evaluation”

MIDDLETOWN — About three-dozen people crammed into a hearing room at Connecticut Valley Hospital May 1 to hear a panel of six officials decide whether to allow day trips from the psychiatric hospital for a man who killed his wife 11 years ago.
CVH
Ultimately — after hearing a sister’s emotional plea and conflicting testimony from psychiatrists — the state Psychiatric Security Review Board put off any decision pending an independent evaluation.

The hearing was the latest chapter in the case of David Messenger, who killed Heather, his pregnant wife, in front of their 5-year-old son in 1998 in Chaplin.

Hannah Williamson-Coon, Heather’s sister, traveled to CVH from her home in Michigan, to face Messenger for the first time in 11 years. She urged the review board to bar him from taking day trips into the community. But before making her plea, she turned to Messenger.

“You denied us all the chance to say goodbye because you beat her beyond recognition,” Williamson-Coon told him. “Only my dad got to see her and he started dying that very moment. That horrible image stayed with him forever.”

The security review board, which has overseen Messenger’s care since he was acquitted in 2001 of killing his wife by reason of “mental disease or mental defect,” had convened to review the hospital’s request to allow Messenger to leave the hospital on day trips. Messenger, 57, committed to the review board’s care for 20 years in 2001, has been a CVH patient since then.

Link:http://www.courant.com/community/news/mr/hc-1townreview0510.artmay10,0,1242015.story?track=rss

Hearing Today On Killer’s Request For Temporary Leave

Hearing Today On Killer’s Request For Temporary Leave

The Hartford Courant
9:03 AM EDT, May 1, 2009

The state Psychiatric Security Review Board this morning will consider whether David Messenger, acquitted by “reason of mental disease or mental defect” of killing his pregnant wife in 1998, is ready to leave Connecticut Valley Hospital and live in a community.
David Messenger
The hospital has asked the board to grant Messenger a temporary leave that would allow him to live in a neighborhood in Old Saybrook. If the board approves the request, Messenger would remain under the hospital’s care, said Ellen Lachance, the review board’s executive director.

Under the hospital’s proposal, Messenger would not live in a supervised setting and would be allowed to drive, use public transportation and shop with family and friends, according to a partial copy of the hospital’s temporary-leave application.

Lachance said the “full scope” of the hospital’s request would be revealed during this morning’s public hearing at CVH. She said that, in general, patients who receive temporary leaves continue to receive psychiatric treatment and return to CVH for periodic visits.

The review board is an independent agency that oversees people who have been acquitted by reason of insanity. Temporary leaves can allow patients to spend as little as a few hours in the community or live in the community full time, Lachance said.

It is the first step toward rejoining society. The next step — which CVH has not requested — is a conditional release, which results in patients’ being discharged from CVH to live in the community under the care of a community provider.

The board sets the parameters for the patient’s activities and retains ultimate oversight in both scenarios, which could include case management, vocational training and other services, Lachance said.

In this case, CVH is asking that Messenger eventually be allowed to live in the community full time, she said.

In 2006, the security board gave Messenger permission to take unsupervised visits under certain conditions, but rescinded its approval when Middletown officials objected. In 2007, city officials raised an outcry when they found out that Messenger had been on dozens of supervised visits around the city.

Today’s hearing will be Messenger’s first appearance before the board in two years, Lachance said. He has been a CVH patient since 2001, when he was committed to 20 years at the public psychiatric hospital. Messenger killed Heather Messenger with a board and a fireplace poker in their Chaplin home in 1998.

The public can attend the 9:30 a.m. hearing, but only the victim’s family will be allowed to speak. The board will ask representatives from CVH to prove that Messenger could live on his own. An assistant state’s attorney is expected to attend and could argue against granting Messenger a temporary leave.

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant
Link: http://www.courant.com/community/news/mr/hc-preview-messenger-0501.artmay02,0,5018965.story

Hospital Seeks Temporary Leave For Patient Who Killed His Wife

Hospital Seeks Temporary Leave For Patient Who Killed His Wife

By MONICA POLANCO

April 16, 2009

Connecticut Valley Hospital officials think David Messenger, acquitted by “reason of mental disease or mental defect” of killing his pregnant wife in 1998, is ready to leave the hospital and live in a community.

The hospital has asked the state Psychiatric Security Review Board to grant Messenger a temporary leave that would allow him to live in a neighborhood in Old Saybrook. If the board approves the request, Messenger would remain under the hospital’s care, said Ellen Lachance, the review board’s executive director.

Under the hospital’s proposal, Messenger would not live in a supervised setting and would be allowed to drive, use public transportation and shop with family and friends, according to a partial copy of the hospital’s temporary-leave application.

Lachance declined to release the full version of the application, citing confidentiality rules. Lachance said the “full scope” of the hospital’s request would be revealed during a May 1 public hearing at CVH. She said that, in general, patients who receive temporary leaves continue to receive psychiatric treatment and return to CVH for periodic visits.

The review board is an independent agency that oversees people who have been acquitted by reason of insanity. Temporary leaves can allow patients to spend as little as a few hours in the community or live in the community full time, Lachance said.

It is the first step toward rejoining society. The next step — which CVH has not requested — is a conditional release, which results in patients’ being discharged from CVH to live in the community under the care of a community provider.

The board sets the parameters for the patient’s activities and retains ultimate oversight in both scenarios, which could include case management, vocational training and other services, Lachance said.

In this case, CVH is asking that Messenger eventually be allowed to live in the community full time, she said.

In 2006, the security board gave Messenger permission to take unsupervised visits under certain conditions, but rescinded its approval when Middletown officials objected. In 2007, city officials raised an outcry when they found out that Messenger had been on dozens of supervised visits around the city.

Next month’s public hearing will be Messenger’s first appearance before the board in two years, Lachance said. He has been a CVH patient since 2001, when he was committed to 20 years at the public psychiatric hospital. Messenger killed Heather Messenger with a board and a fireplace poker in their Chaplin home in 1998.

Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, who has opposed allowing Messenger back into Middletown, said his biggest concern is how Messenger’s release would affect his city.

“If what he’s asking for places no burden on Middletown, then I don’t know that I have a whole lot to say about it,” Giuliano said. “I’ll leave that to the city’s legal department to analyze the whole thing.”

Giuliano’s reaction was much more measured than it has been in the past, when he threatened to “staple a police officer to [Messenger’s] butt” the moment Messenger left the hospital grounds.

Old Saybrook First Selectman Michael Pace did not respond Wednesday to several requests for comment.

The public can attend the 9:30 a.m. hearing, but only the victim’s family will be allowed to speak. The board will ask representatives from CVH to prove that Messenger could live on his own. An assistant state’s attorney is expected to attend and could argue against granting Messenger a temporary leave.

Link:http://www.courant.com/news/local/mr/middletown/hc-midmessenger0416.artapr16,0,4080812.story