Today, Arapahoe County District Judge William Sylvester ordered psychiatric analysis of Dark Knight Rises mass-shooting suspect James Holmes.
Holmes will enter a plea tomorrow and is expected to plea Not Guilty by reason of Insanity. Judge Sylvester's court order could involve use of both narco analysis (read: truth serum) and a polygraph test.
• The M'Naghten Rule
Like most U.S. States
, Colorado follows a version of the M'Naghten Rule, which states under its original description that:
the jurors ought to be told in all cases that every man is to be presumed to be sane, and to possess a sufficient degree of reason to be responsible for his crimes, until the contrary be proved to their satisfaction; and that to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.
This is in comparison to the Durham test
, which is broader and states that the crime must have been the "product of the mental defect" in order for insanity to be determined.
Colorado's modified version of MNaghten adds the Irresistible Impulse
test, which allows for a defense of insanity if the finders of fact determine that the defendant could not have controlled their actions at the time.
In general, the burden of proof for M'Naghten is on the party relying on it, but in Colorado, the burden is on the State.
• Fifth Amendment Issues
The Fifth Amendment protects defendants from self-incrimination. This means, for instance, that a defendant may not be compelled to testify at a criminal trial. It is also the basis for Miranda
rights, which provide you not only with the right to remain silent but also the right to be informed of these rights. As you might imagine, a defendant who is ordered to be put on drugs lowering their inhibition so that they may be more pliable to be interviewed by state actors could easily have a claim of violation of his Fifth Amendment rights, as they would be absolutely unable to give informed consent to the interview.
So how is the Court allowed to do this, then?
Because the statements made in the analysis under the court order almost certainly will not be admitted at trial, and certainly not as evidence towards the question of whether Holmes in fact committed the crime.
Insanity is an Affirmative Defense
, meaning that because the defense posits facts not argued by the Plaintiff (in this case, the prosecution) the burden of proof shifts away from the "Reasonable Doubt" standard
towards the more lenient (again to the prosecution, in this instance) "Preponderance of the Evidence" standard
(usually.) Because, however, Colorado's version of M'Naghten places the burden of proof on the State, the State needs to do it's own investigation in order to argue the issue. Not surprisingly, that means psychoanalysis. But the law is fairly clear that such evidence would be admissible only to the question of Holmes' sanity (as judged by the MNaghten standard + Irresistible Impulse) and no other purpose. Such evidence, as it relates to the insanity defense, would most likely come in the form of expert testimony by psychoanalysts from both sides.
In general, the Polygraph test works the same way. It is considered by most courts to be not reliable enough to overcome the substantial bias inherent in its results, and thus results are not admissible. (Though for Defendants, a willingness to take a Polygraph may be admissible to show innocence.) However, the state's psychoanalist may have use for one in determining his or her opinion on Holmes' sanity, and the actual results and questions involved would almost certainly not be admissible as evidence themselves.