Division III: Insanity Defense Failure Only Prejudicial Error of Counsel If It Would've Worked
This is an ineffective assistance case. West here claims that his counsel should have asked the jury to acquit based on insanity. To be fair, in prison, West did exhibit some psychotic peculiarities…well…no, just straight on psychosis:
"He started talking about the coming of Christ." He claimed to be a prophet of God. He boasted that God taught him Hebrew and that God paid Barack Obama $4 million to spring him from prison. West believed Barack Obama would arrive in a limousine to drive him home. West stayed awake for days chanting and declaring himself to be one of the kings of the twelve tribes of Israel. West told other prisoners that Israelis paid $400,000 for his release so they could return him to Israel to serve as one of their kings.
Needless to say, Barack did not sweep in on a Unicorn like some miracle from Valhalla to sweep west away to the magical Kingdom of Oz so that the Wizard could give him a tin-foil hat. They just gave him some antipsychotics. This calmed him enough to work with knives (seriously, they let this guy work with knives…ever…seriously????), though he still claimed he was a prophet of God. West stopped taking his meds, claiming he wasn’t mentally ill, and then went all assaulty on people. Of course, he was then placed on antipsychotics again, and was deemed fir to stand trial.
Oddly enough, this case involves an expert I know quite well, Dr. Kenneth Muscatel. Dr. Muscatel conceded that despite being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, that he could understand the nature and quality of his actions, but hedged on whether he understood that at the time of the assaults. Here, regardless of whether the lawyers asked for an insanity acquittal, it wouldn’t have affected the outcome:
To repeat, in order to satisfy the prejudice prong, the defendant must establish that "there is a reasonable probability that, but for counsel's deficient performance, the outcome of the proceedings would have been different." State v. Kyllo, 166 Wn.2d at 862. A reasonable probability is a probability sufficient to undermine confidence in the outcome. Strickland, 466 U.S. at 694; State v. Thomas, 109 Wn.2d at 226 (1987). West argues the outcome would have been different because the trial court likely would have granted a motion to acquit by reason of insanity. We disagree. . . .
A court may grant a defendant's motion to acquit by reason of insanity only if the defendant shows by a preponderance of the evidence that he was insane at the time of the offense with which he is charged. RCW 10.77.080. To establish insanity a defendant must show he was unable to perceive the nature and quality ofthe act with which he is charged or that he was unable to tell right from wrong. RCW 9A.12.010.
Both trial expert witnesses, including Michael West's expert Kenneth Muscatel, testified that they had no doubt West understood the nature and quality ofthe acts with which he was charged. While acknowledging this weakness in his argument, West contends Muscatel opined that he did not understand the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time ofthe assaults. West misreads Muscatel's testimony. Muscatel testified it was difficult to determine whether West understood the wrongfulness of his conduct at the time, because "[West] doesn't remember big chunks of what happened." RP at 418. Muscatel testified that he could not determine whether West understood the wrongfulness of his conduct because West did not remember why he assaulted his cellmates. Muscatel did not testify that West could not understand the wrongfulness of his conduct. More importantly, Michael West accurately conveyed to William Grant his violent behavior and any judge will wonder if West spoke truthfully to Dr. Muscatel when denying knowledge.
The preponderance ofthe evidence shows Michael West knew both the nature and quality of his acts as well as the wrongfulness of his conduct when he assaulted Bolstad and Welch. Based on the account West omitted from his interview with Muscatel, Dr. Grant concluded by a preponderance ofthe evidence that West knew right from wrong when he attacked Chad Bolstad and Gary Welch.
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