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Inquiry opens into murder defendant's hospital treatment

A defendant's mental state leading up to and during the commission of a serious crime can make or break a criminal case. Insanity defenses, common in most other states, were banned in Kansas 20 years ago. A University of Kansas law professor, quoted in a 2011 Columbia Tribune article, said defense strategies were forced to shift.

The provisions of criminal laws may be tested in the case of a 30-year-old Kansas man now facing a charge of second-degree murder. The mentally ill man was treated at Osawatomie State Hospital just three days before the defendant got into an altercation with a man at a Haviland assisted living facility.

The murder charge followed the death of the 61-year-old injured man in June.

Violent behavior was the reason the defendant was hospitalized for a week at the state hospital. The fatal run-in was not the first time the man fought with people at the assisted living facility. The defendant is now in custody at Larned State Hospital.

Osawatomie State Hospital was put under the spotlight by Kansas authorities, who are wondering whether the defendant's treatment there lasted as long as it should have. Most of the approximately 200 patients at the hospital are involuntary admissions due to threats of self-harm or harm to others. Reports stated the hospital has a history of overcrowding and understaffing, and shuffles patients to other facilities or jails when the patient population is too large.

An inquiry was opened into the fatal beating case to determine whether the acute-care psychiatric facility acted appropriately. It's unclear whether the results of the inquiry will affect the murder case.

Criminal defense attorneys may argue a mental illness prevented a defendant from having the proper state of mind to commit a felony. For instance, prosecutors must convince a court that a defendant's mindset included premeditation and an intent to kill for a first-degree murder conviction.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "State examines its role in south-central Kansas homicide case," Dave Helling, July 02, 2015

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