Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Mental Health and Plea Deal

A man who killed a convenience store clerk pleaded guilty to second-degree murder on Monday.

Newspaper accounts give us both sides of plea bargaining. The prosecutors were willing to accept a plea because they "felt that there was a significant risk that if this went to trial, a jury might find he [Bistryski] was insane at the time he committed the murder," according to King County Deputy Prosecutor (and UW Trial Ad instructor) Nelson Lee. The Man who killed Kenmore clerk with deputy's gun pleads guilty, Seattle Times, April 23, 2007.

On the other side: "Defense attorney Daron Morris, who was pursuing an insanity defense for Bistryski, said his client agreed to the plea deal because even if they won an insanity defense, it would have meant an indefinite civil commitment to a mental hospital." Clerk's slayer pleads guilty, faces 19 to 27 years in prison, Seattle Times, April 24, 2007.

After the shooting, the defendant had told police that he shot the clerk because the clerk didn't believe his stories about a nebula and black hold that were threatening people. The defendant is now receiving medication for his mental illness.

This story has a couple of stories within it. In addition to the plea bargain story, there's also a story about a sheriff's deputy. The defendant got his gun from his boyfriend, the deputy, after the boyfriend went to sleep, leaving his service weapon on the counter. The deputy resigned three or four months after the shooting. Sheriff Sue Rahr said that otherwise he would have been fired for a number of rule violations. Id.

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