Monday, January 31, 2005

Refusal to answer experts' questions -- what effect?

Charged with four counts of aggravated murder, the defendant filed notice of intent to plead not guilty by reason of insanity. He discussed details relating to the crimes with defense experts. Later, when he was interviewed by the state's experts, he refused to answer questions relating to the crimes, relying on RCW 10.77.020(3). Now what?

The state argued that he shouldn't be allowed to introduce any evidence of his insanity. The defense argued that he should, and that the state should not be allowed to comment on his refusal to answer.

The Supreme Court (Bridge, J.) held that he could still present the insanity defense, but that the state's experts could testify about why they were unable to form an opinion as to his sanity at the time of the crime.

"The State will not refer to his silence for the purposes of leading the jury to infer sanity. Instead, the State seeks only to explain the WSH experts' failure to form an opinion as to an issue raised by Carneh himself, namely his sanity at the time of the crimes. Any natural tendency for the jury to infer sanity from Carneh's silence can be cured by a limiting instruction, should such an instruction be sought by the defense."

Justice Sanders dissented in part: "I would hold that the State cannot comment on Carneh's assertion of that right because such a comment necessarily infers that Carneh is withholding information-information that RCW 10.77.020(3) specifically privileges him not to produce."

State v. Carneh, 103 P.3d 743 (Wash. Dec. 23, 2004). Links on majority opinion; Sanders opinion.

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