In Reply to: Re: SG in prison for murder, needs help posted by Observer on April 18, 2005 at 13:16:08:
...and gone to trial for his crime, there might have been some consideration of his abuse history in the sentencing phase, but this mitigating circumstance would not have changed the determination of guilt. Not guilty by reason of insanity means the individual could not tell right from wrong at the time s/he committed the criminal offense. Ricky knew right from wrong--this is evident from his tape.
I don't know about California's legal system--that state might have a "guilty but insane" pleading that puts people whose crime is a direct consequence of their mental illness into a forensic unit of the state psychiatric hospital. However, this option also means the person could be locked up much longer than if he'd accepted a straight sentence of 8 years (or whatever). Forensic units of psychiatric hospitals keep people locked up indefinitely.
Like I said before, abuse victims kill their perpetrators on a fairly regular basis in this country. While it is possible that Ricky might have received a "lighter" sentence if he had cooperated with police and pled guilty, he would still have done some serious time in prison. I seriously doubt he would have been placed in a forensic unit of a state psychiatric hospital or on a prison psychiatric unit simply because he has a documented history of extreme childhood abuse.
A history of abuse and the commission of a crime do not necessarily provide evidence of a mental illness that directly contributed to the commission of a crime. Ricky's defense lawyer would have needed to provide a psychiatric evaluation that was entered into evidence during the sentencing phase. However there's no guarantee the judge would have bought it as a mitigating circumstance on which to base sentencing. You can bet the prosecution would have had their psychiatrist saying Ricky's crime had no relationship to the presence of a mental illness.
Here's the bottom line with the law & mental illness: If you have a psychiatric condition that might contribute to violent behavior, you're responsible to take care of your illness with treatment. If you commit a crime, the presence of your psychiatric condition will not necessarily result in a lighter sentence. The way the legal system looks at this issue is that people with mental illnesses who commit violent crimes are a menace to society just like people WITHOUT mental illnesses who commit violent crimes. Both groups need to be kept off the streets and punished. (I'm not saying I agree with that view; I'm just stating how it is.)
It is possible for people with mental illnesses to receive psychiatric treatment while they're in prison; however, only the sickest of the sick are placed on a prison psychiatric unit. They end up there because they're so disruptive to the general prison population.