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Criminal defense for murder defendant may hinge on mental health

Charges have been filed against a 22-year-old Kansas man who is accused of killing a 51-year-old male victim. The defendant must mount a criminal defense against allegations of first-degree murder, a serious criminal charge. The defendant is currently being held in a Johnson County facility on a $1 million bond.

Investigators say that the victim's decomposing body was found in his own home on June 8. That victim was apparently stabbed to death. Relatives of the victim have said that they are not sure how the defendant knew the other man, though they may have met through the victim's auto business.

This is not the first time that the defendant has faced legal trouble; in 2011, the man was deemed not competent to stand trial after an alleged burglary and attempted theft. The defendant was transferred to Larned State Hospital, instead, and the charges were later dismissed. The man reportedly received intensive care at that facility, though the nature of the treatment has not yet been released.

Based on the man's previous criminal record, his defense attorneys may choose to pursue clemency through an insanity plea. Those defendants who are mentally ill or developmentally disabled deserve the full protection of the court, no matter the type of crime they are accused of committing. Our American justice system prioritizes defendants' rights, and no defendant is more vulnerable than the person who truly does not understand the ramifications of assault, attempted murder and other serious charges.

Criminal defendants should have the right to receive the treatment and care they need if they are deemed mentally ill. Such defendants are, in a way, victims themselves, having to struggle with their illnesses that drive them to commit violent crimes. This man and others with a history of disturbed behavior should be carefully protected throughout courtroom proceedings.

Source: The Kansas City Star, "Charge filed in Overland Park homicide" Tony Rizzo, Jun. 19, 2014

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