Some defenses are just insane

Kevin Cowherd

January 30, 1991|By Kevin Cowherd

I SEE WHERE the age-old insanity plea is alive and well, and was recently dusted off in a celebrated case on the West Coast.

According to his lawyer, the defendant was a wonderful husband and father, a prince of a human being except that, OK, he occasionally enjoyed carving up people with an old dagger.

Actually, in between organizing car pools and coaching Little League and helping out with the household chores, he carved up THREE people with an old dagger. (Then again, who among us is perfect?)

Anyway, when the cops finally caught this guy, they had enough physical evidence plus eyewitness accounts to put him away until the year 3000.

So after huddling with his mouthpiece, the guy decided to claim that he was insane at the time of each killing.

The cops didn't report finding a diary on the guy, but if they had, I'm sure it would have read something like this:

MONDAY: Feel fit and well-rested. Spent wonderful weekend at our cabin in the Poconos. Spotted three white-tailed deer. Eager to return to work and nail down O'Brien account.

TUESDAY: Must kill. Perhaps that tall woman in kerchief over there.

WEDNESDAY: Has the sky ever looked as blue? Dinner at Aunt Edna's tonight. Looking forward to her roast beef and dumplings. Kids' report cards due today.

THURSDAY: Must kill. Perhaps that stout woman at bus stop.

FRIDAY: Good news! We beat Ed Charles Pontiac by 60 pins in Nite Owl Mixed League. I rolled a 210! PTA meeting at 7:30 sharp.

SATURDAY: Must kill. Will flip a coin or thumb through White Pages for victim.

SUNDAY: Where does the time go? Would love to curl up with good book, but lawn needs to be re-seeded and fertilized. Busy, busy, busy.

Anyway, the jury saw right through this insanity plea nonsense. In fact, 12 people nearly fell out of the jury box, they were laughing so hard at the idea.

Eventually the killer was sentenced to something like 75 years in prison, which means he'll probably be paroled by the time you finish reading this.

In the meantime, though, the guy is banging out license plates and catching up on the quality entertainment offered in maximum security facilities these days, which mainly consists of hanging out with amorous weightlifters and watching "Jeopardy" re-runs.

Which is exactly as it should be if you carve three people up and try to beat the rap with a temporary insanity plea.

Listen, I'll tell you what temporary insanity is. Temporary insanity is some guy pulling a knife and demanding that you taste the blueberry muffins he just baked.

Temporary insanity is some woman stealing your car and racing to the nearest garage so they can rotate the tires and she can get the car back to you right away.

Temporary insanity is some guy breaking into your house, herding the whole family into one room at gunpoint, and demonstrating how to tie a Windsor knot in a necktie.

That's temporary insanity. It's not killing three people on three different occasions using the exact same ruse to gain access to the victim's home.

According to my exhaustive research (thumbing through "The Most Up-to-Date, One-Volume Paperback Encyclopedia For Home, School and Office"), insanity in criminal law is defined as an individual's inability to distinguish right from wrong, and therefore to assume responsibility for his acts.

Well. I think we would all agree that sticking a dagger into a person 27 times until he looks like a pincushion is wrong.

This is not one of those hazy areas where the medical examiner looks at the corpse, takes a long drag on his cigarette and thinks: "Gee, maybe the dagger accidentally slipped into his chest."

Now, I'm sorry. But no matter how much booze or dope you consume or how inherently stupid you are, you must know that society frowns on the idea of carving up THREE fellow human beings, even if (OK, it happens) there's not a thing on TV and you're really bored.

So this temporary insanity nonsense . . . I just don't get it. I'm sure you multiple-murderers out there can come up with a better excuse than that, if you'd all just put your heads together and try.

How about this: "I just didn't like the victims."

At least now we're getting somewhere.

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