Pinales Stachler attorneys Martin Pinales, Candace Crouse, and Eric Eckes won a Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) verdict in the case of a man who was accused of threatening to murder Speaker of the House, John Boehner, with the intent to retaliate against him on account of the performance of his official duties. Upon being retained for the case, our attorneys immediately understood the importance of a thorough mental health evaluation for the young man. The client had been diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder, with severe psychotic features. Our attorneys asked that the client be sent to a Federal Bureau of Prisons (“BOP”) facility for both a competency evaluation and a determination of whether he was NGRI. While he was found competent to stand trial, the BOP psychologist found that at the time of the offense, the client was experiencing a manic episode with psychotic features, and that his behaviors were grossly disorganized, erratic, and delusional. As a result, he was unable to appreciate the nature and quality and the wrongfulness of his acts at the time of the alleged offense.
At a bench trial on July 13, 2015, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, Judge Timothy Black, found the client Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity. The judge stated, “Mental illness is a prevalent problem in the community that we need to recognize and respond to with treatment. I hope the victim realizes we’re trying to balance the [work] of those [government officials] who are trying to help us and the weakest among us.” Addressing the client, the Judge stated, “I hope you were able to hear some of what I said. You’ve got a medical condition. You’re so much better today, and there’s a way forward where with help and medication … you’re going to be able to get well and function productively. . . But it’s going to require your commitment to stick with the medication and stick with the recommendation … of your therapists. I would ask you do that. Godspeed.”
Fortunately, the Judge, the prosecutor, and the defense team understood that prison was not the appropriate place for our client and that treatment was the appropriate response. Unfortunately, a compassionate understanding of mental health issues is not taken into account in most cases. More than half of our nation’s prison inmates have mental health issues and many are never treated. For those who are, most are only treated with medication and not mental health therapy. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/04/more-than-half-of-prisoners-are-mentally-ill/389682/
This verdict will ensure that our client will receive the mental health treatment he needs, but without being labeled as a convicted felon for the rest of his life. Judge Black asked, “Do we respond to mental health issues with treatment, prison, or a combination of both?” Ultimately, he agreed that treatment was the best course.
For more information about the case see:
UPDATE: On November 24, 2015, after more than one year in federal custody, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy S. Black ordered Michael Hoyt to be unconditionally released. During a hearing to determine whether Mr. Hoyt would be released from custody, Judge Black called the case “a lesson for America” about mental illness. “If and when we see someone struggling, we need to act,” said Judge Black. During the hearing, a psychologist at FMC Butner testified via video conference that Mr. Hoyt had extra scrutiny because of the high-profile nature of the case and that he was clearly ready for release. She said Mr. Hoyt’s family is “very invested” in his treatment, something she doesn’t often see. In his written order releasing Mr. Hoyt from Custody, Judge Black wrote, “it is far preferable that a person suffering from mental illness, in remission and under proper medication, be cared for by his family and community medical professionals, rather than be warehoused in prison.”
For more information about the outcome of this case, see: