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Virginia Court Sides with Defendant in Domestic Violence Case, Given Defendant’s Mental State at the Time of the Offense

In a recent appellate opinion regarding a defendant’s violent behavior and eventual killing of his wife, the court agreed with the defendant’s arguments and reversed his guilty conviction. According to the court, there was a significant chance that the defendant acted violently because he suffered from extreme mental illness. Given this possibility, the court vacated the defendant’s guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant’s wife told him she wanted a divorce in March 2017. Infuriated, the defendant began acting violently. He committed several serious domestic violence offenses against his wife, strangling her with his hands and a pair of pajama bottoms.

The defendant’s wife died from injuries related to the incident. The defendant called 911 himself to report what he had done, telling the 911 operator that he had heard voices controlling his mind that told him to commit the offense. When officers arrived at the scene of the crime, the defendant made no attempt to hide what he had done.

The Decision

The defendant was found guilty at trial of first-degree murder. A clinical psychologist was appointed to perform an evaluation of the defendant to determine whether he was clinically sane at the time of the offense. The expert testified that the defendant experienced severe mental illness that impaired his ability to keep himself from injuring his wife.

The defendant argued at trial that he was, indeed, clinically insane, and that thus he should face less serious consequences because of his mental impairment. The trial court disagreed and instead granted the Commonwealth’s motion to strike the “insanity defense” from the defendant’s case. The defendant appealed.

On appeal, the defendant argued that he had an irresistible impulse to injure his wife; thus, he should not be held fully responsible for the crime. Because he could not physically help the condition he was in, the insanity defense should have been available to him during trial. He was unable to control his actions or restrain himself, and thus the conviction should be reconsidered.

The higher court considered the defendant’s appeal and ultimately agreed with him. According to the record in the case, the expert had testified at trial that the defendant was “responding to delusional thoughts” at the time of the incident, which resulted in the injury and death of his wife. It was clear, said the court, that the defendant was unable to rationally think through what was going on at the time of the altercation. The court found the expert witness’s statements to be credible, and it thus decided to vacate the defendant’s conviction.

Are You Facing Assault or Battery Charges in Virginia?

At Robinson Law, PLLC, we work across Chesapeake County to represent criminal defendants charged with crimes such as assault and battery. We make sure to provide high quality, aggressive representation that gives you the highest possible chance of having your charges dropped. In addition to domestic violence and battery cases, we handle offenses related to DUIs, drugs, and guns. For a free and confidential consultation, give us a call today at (703) 844-3746.

 

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