Attorney Goldenberg’s client was found not criminally responsible in the Dedham District Court and no period of hospitalization was ordered. After five difficult years, her client finally got the verdict he deserved.
To be found not criminally responsible (more commonly knows as not guilty by reason of insanity) the accused’s mental condition at the time of the offense must have rendered him unable to realize that their behavior was wrong or unable to make themself behave lawfully. At trial, forensic psychologists or psychiatrists give their opinion as to whether the accused was criminally responsible based on their review of case information, medical records, and clinical evaluations of the accused. The jury or judge decides the verdict: guilty, not guilty, or not criminally responsible due to mental illness.
A verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity has the same effect as a not guilty verdict in that the accused does not have a criminal record from that case and cannot be sentenced to a correctional institution or placed on probation. However, the judge can order a 40 day period of hospitalization for further evaluation. During that time, the institution may choose to move for civil commitment if they believe that the individual presents a danger to themself or others. If such a commitment is pursued, it is subject to a separate court proceeding unrelated to the criminal case.
In many cases, the person found not criminally responsible has received medical treatment since the date of offense and is not at risk of having further hospitalization ordered. For Attorney Goldenberg’s client, there was no basis to order further evaluation.
Learn more: mental illness defenses in criminal cases