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Idaho Supreme Court upholds law that abolished insanity defense

The Idaho Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the law that abolished the insanity defense in Idaho, upholding the sentence of mentally ill multiple murderer John Delling of Boise, who went on a killing spree targeting his childhood friends. He was sentenced to a determinate sentence of life in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of second-degree murder. “None of Delling's constitutional rights have been infringed by the abolition of the insanity defense,” wrote Chief Justice Roger Burdick in the court's unanimous opinion; you can read it here.

Insanity defense explored in ‘08 murder

The aggravated murder trial of accused crossbow killer Cole K. Strandberg will proceed in January following a hearing to allow his defense attorney to present a case that his client should be acquitted because he is insane. 

Defense attorney Chris Bugbee asked Superior Court Judge Tari Eitzen Tuesday for what amounts to a mini-trial on Jan. 5 to present evidence about his client’s mental state at the time of the killing. Strandberg has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Eitzen reluctantly agreed, but said the January trial date is “written in concrete.”

Strandberg, who was featured earlier this year in a Discovery Channel episode of “Behind Bars,” is charged with sexually assaulting and using a crossbow to kill 22-year-old Jennifer Bergeron on Jan. 7, 2008.

Guilty, and expensive?

OLYMPIA — Changing Washington law to allow criminal defendants to be found guilty but mentally ill probably wouldn’t have much effect on the state mental hospital system, a high-ranking state official said Friday.

But it could add significant costs to the Department of Corrections, and taxpayers, said David Weston, the chief of mental health services for the Department of Social and Health Services.

“It could be very expensive,” Weston said in an interview after discussing mentally ill criminals with the House Human Services Committee.

            A proposal the Legislature considered earlier this year would have allowed defendants to be found “guilty but mentally ill.” It didn’t pass, but is getting new scrutiny after the escape of Phillip Paul during an Eastern State Hospital “field trip” to the Spokane County Fair last month.

            Weston said he believed only a few defendants who are now found not guilty by reason of insanity would be found guilty but mentally ill if the law changed. The change would have a much bigger impact on defendants who have a mental illness and are currently being found guilty.