December 6, 2005 in Nation/World

Court takes up insanity defense case

Gina Holland Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court agreed Monday to consider whether a teen convicted of killing an Arizona police officer had a fair chance to argue that he was insane, renewing debate about insanity defenses.

Justices over the past decade have repeatedly declined to consider cases involving insanity claims.

In a surprise, the court said it would take up the case of Eric Michael Clark, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. He was a 17-year-old high school student when he shot Officer Jeff Moritz during a traffic stop in Flagstaff, Ariz., on June 21, 2000.

There was evidence that Clark believed his town had been taken over by aliens and that he was being held captive and tortured before the killing.

His lawyer, David Goldberg, told justices that the state insanity law is unconstitutional because it restricts what evidence can be introduced. Arizona changed its laws after John Hinckley’s acquittal by reason of insanity in the March 1981 shooting of President Reagan and three others outside a Washington hotel.

At issue in the Arizona case is the use of evidence in contesting whether a defendant was so mentally ill that he or she did not know the crime was wrong.

Clark was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison in the officer’s death.

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