Journalist's Guide

is technically suspended. This gives the defendant an opportunity to request expungement of their record upon successful completion of the conditions or probation. Insanity Pleas . The correct full name of the result of a successful imposition of an insanity plea is a finding of guilty and the special verdict of “not criminally responsible by reason of insanity.” The point is insanity is not a not guilty verdict. Maryland law makes it very clear the state must first prove all elements of guilt or the defendant must plead guilty before the special verdict of insanity should be considered. The Rules provide the option for a bifurcated, or split, trial of guilt first, and then litigation of the insanity issue. If found not criminally responsible, the defendant is not sent to prison, but committed to a mental hospital unit until it is proved they are no longer dangerous as a result of their mental disorder. Release from the hospital can only be accomplished by order of the court and almost always is a conditional release with detailed outpatient requirements imposed on the defendant. Insanity relates to the defendant’s state at the time of the alleged offense – whether when they committed the crime, they were, as a result of a mental disorder or retardation, unable to substantially appreciate the criminality of their conduct or conform their conduct to the requirements of law. Insanity is not the same as incompetency. A defendant who at the time of trial is presently unable to assist in their defense or understand the proceedings is incompetent to stand trial and, if dangerous, is committed to a mental hospital until they regain competency. Incompetency can be raised by the state, the court on its own, as well as by defense counsel or defendant. Insanity, however, requires a written plea by the defense. A finding of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity is not always desirable for even a fairly mentally ill client. The indefinite commitment possibilities may be less attractive than a fixed jail term. Thus, there is a requirement that a special written plea of insanity be filed by the defendant to show a clear desire to pursue this course. Comparatively, few defendants are found insane while many have special health conditions of probation or parole. Orders for evaluation of mental condition by the Health Department or other doctors is one of many pretrial orders issued in the period from bail review to trial. Orders for preservation and further scientific testing of evidence are not infrequent as is the collection of medical records and the like. Postponements are inevitable. Discovery and evaluations are often not complete; witnesses are often unavailable and court and counsel calendars are jammed. However, postponements often serve as part of the negotiation process. Victims as well as defendants often need time to sort out the situation and to reassess their own expectations of the criminal justice system. Jury Selection Jury selection, or voir dire in Maryland is less elaborate than in many states and typically judges and litigants use the pattern jury instructions. The judge usually asks most of the questions and in a close-ended fashion. Much of the questioning is done of the group with jurors approaching the bench usually only for the more “personal” questions. Jurors with clear bias are struck for cause . The number of peremptory challenges , strikes for any reason (besides race and gender, which are


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