Assembly votes to reinstate ‘guilty but mentally ill’ plea
Associated Press Writer
The Nevada Assembly voted unanimously Friday for a bill reinstating a “guilty but mentally ill” plea, a response to the case of a Las Vegas man who was found innocent by reason of insanity for killing a friend and has since recovered at a mental health facility.
Other measures passed by the Assembly had to do with child safety seats, weapons at schools, fraud, retail theft rings and lapses in teacher licenses.
Nevada had a “not guilty by reason of insanity” plea until 1995, when lawmakers replaced it with a “guilty but mentally ill” defense. That was scrapped by legislators in 2003, in line with a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that said not allowing an insanity defense was unconstitutional.
Lawyers for Darren Mack, charged with killing his estranged wife and shooting their divorce judge last year, recently added an insanity plea to his defense.
AB193 was sponsored by Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, on behalf an interim committee that studied the criminal justice system. The bill also says the “guilty but mentally ill” plea cannot be used if the mental illness was caused by voluntary intoxication.
Horne also is the prime sponsor of AB369, awaiting a vote in the Assembly, which establishes procedures for the release of someone who is committed for an insanity plea.
In September 2004, a Clark County jury found Michael Kane not guilty by reason of insanity in the slaying of John Trowbridge. Kane was under the influence of LSD when in 2001 he fatally stabbed Trowbridge, who had sold him the drug.
Kane’s lawyer, Scott Coffee, and the doctors who are treating him at the state’s Lakes Crossing facility, where he’s been for about 4 1/2 years, say he’s no longer mentally ill.
The bill is a compromise between prosecutors and public defenders, who had argued the original bill could hurt the mentally ill by not providing them with proper treatment. The Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, the public defender offices in Clark and Washoe counties, and the District Attorneys Association worked on the bill.
The Assembly also passed:
• AB64, which would increase penalties for those who don’t use child safety seats in cars.
• AB107, which would add swords, axes, hatchets, machetes, or other deadly weapons to the items that are prohibited on school campuses.
• AB421, which creates the crime of participating in an organized retail theft ring.
• AB432, which would prohibit a school from suspending a teacher during the school year for an expired license.
• AB521, which would increase the penalty for certain cases of fraud.