Criminal Law Keyed to Dressler
Perez v. Cain
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Perez (D) drove with his 12-year old son from Texas to New Orleans where he fatally shot a police officer. His son informed the police that his father had believed himself to be pursued by hitmen, and had acted paranoid throughout the journey, such as keeping to back roads, suspecting himself to be shadowed by various cars and adopting different strategies to throw off his imagined pursuers. Perez’s wife and son also reported that he had been unusually nervous in the days before the drive. The son had also informed the police that Perez was being chased by gang members because he had cheated some drug dealers. However, the car showed no sign of drugs. Court-appointed doctors examined him to decide whether he was competent to stand trial. More than a year later, Perez was admitted to a forensic facility as being a danger to himself. His doctor there testified that Perez had disorganized thinking, difficulty in communication to an extent which pointed to the presence of mental illness and auditory hallucinations and delusions. After a period of treatment with anti-psychotics, he became mentally competent again and was transferred out of the hospital to stand trial. At trial he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. This plea was supported by evidence from his wife and son and the expert opinion of seven psychiatrists who unanimously testified that he suffered from severe mental illness, paranoia and delusions. They had no personal interest in the case, and all agreed that his symptoms were real. Six of them testified that his mental state had confused the distinction between wrong and right on the night of the shooting. The State did not prevent any expert witness but cross-examined them and also rebutted the son’s and wife’s testimony on the theory that the paranoid story had been made up by the family to fool the medical witnesses. The jury found him guilty of first-degree murder, and the court sentenced him to life imprisonment without parole. His appeals were rejected in state courts, and he filed for a writ of habeas corpus in federal court. The district court held that insufficient evidence was produced to allow the jury to find that he had failed to prove insanity. The State appealed, and the case was reviewed in the court of appeals.
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