Domestic Violence Defendant Decides Against Pursuing Insanity Defense

The defense team in a domestic violence case is no longer pursuing a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. 

The defendant is indicted on charges of assault with intent to kill while armed, cruelty to children, malicious disfigurement, aggravated assault and assault with a dangerous weapon. 

DC Superior Court Judge Marisa Demeo began the defendant’s May 13 hearing by asking if the defense was still looking to pursue a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Defense attorney Steven Kiersh said they no longer were.

A recent Department of Behavioral Health report found the defendant mentally competent to stand trial, Judge Demeo said. Neither party has contested the finding. Still, Judge Demeo said she would file a Frendak inquiry regarding the insanity defense as a formality. 

The 1979 Supreme Court decision in Frendak v. U.S. requires judges to verify a defendant’s competency before allowing the defendant to waive an insanity defense.

The defendant rejected a plea offer during a hearing last November. At that time, Judge Juliet McKenna scheduled him to go on trial this coming November, but the trial date was vacated in January.

Judge Demeo scheduled a trial readiness hearing for Oct. 17. Motions are due on Aug. 26, with responses due on Sept. 9. 

One of the prosecutors on the case said they are not going to present DNA evidence at trial and the only experts they will call are medical doctors who will testify to physical injuries. He said they had not yet sent out expert notices because they were waiting on the defense’s angle on the defendant’s competency evaluations.

Testimony from DNA and competency experts tend to be the most time-consuming, Judge Demeo said. Because the prosecution is not calling such witnesses and the defense is not pursuing an insanity plea, the trial is expected to be shorter. It was previously expected to last eight to nine days but is now expected to last five to six days.

The defendant is scheduled to return to court for a status hearing on June 17. In the meantime, he will remain detained at DC Jail.