SECTION 1 - COLQUITT
540 So. 2d 810 (Ala. Crim. App. 1988)
James Brett Barnett was convicted of the intentional murder of Martha West Barnett, his former wife, and sentenced to life imprisonment in the penitentiary. On appeal, he argues that the trial court erred by refusing to charge the jury on the lesser included offense of manslaughter.
Barnett pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect. Prior to trial, he was sent to Taylor Hardin Secure Medical Facility to determine whether he was competent to stand trial and whether he was sane at the time of the offense. Barnett was found competent to stand trial. In the opinion of the forensic examiner,
"at the time of the alleged offense, Mr. Barnett was experiencing a mental state which is called depersonalization and * * * this state of mind greatly reduced his ability to act in a rational manner." The examiner found that Barnett's "behavior description closely fits that of a DSM-III diagnosis of Depersonalization Disorder with Partial Amnesia."
"This disorder is marked by an alteration in the perception or experience of the self so that one's usual sense of one's own reality is temporarily lost or changed. This experience is manifested by a sense of self-estrangement or unreality, in which the individual sometimes sees himself as if from a distance. He may feel 'mechanical' or as if in a dream, and feel that he is not in complete control of his actions or speech. These feelings and experiences are bothersome and unpleasant to the individual, and may be accompanied by depression, anxiety, obsessive ruminations, and possibly a fear of going insane, especially as the acute phase passes. This condition usually has a rapid onset, with a more gradual disappearance, and is most likely to occur or reoccur when the person is experiencing anxiety, depression, or severe stress."
"In my opinion, Mr. Barnett was experiencing such a state of mind at the moment of the alleged offense, and I believe that this state of mind rendered him temporarily unable to exert sufficient, rational and conscious control over his frustration, fear, and anger concerning his situation. I also believe that it was this state of mind that was a primary factor in his loss of control to the point that he committed the alleged offense."
At trial the defense called the State forensic examiner as a witness. He testified to the following:
"I found Mr. Barnett is not basically psychotic in the sense of being schizophrenic or seriously mentally disordered. In fact, he had no history of reported mental health treatment. At the time that I saw him in the hospital he was showing some signs of what we call a stress reaction and that is reaction to being under stress, he was showing some depression and some anxiety, but this would not be particularly unusual for a person in his condition, we have quite a few people who show signs of fairly severe stress, but certainly not showing any signs of psychosis. It was also my opinion that at the time of the alleged offense that he probably, most likely, suffered what we call a disassociative or a depersonalization reaction which occurred because of the excessive stress and which caused him to lose a sense of self-reality and self-control, and this was the primary factor in his acting out his behavior."
"Q Is that a recognized mental disease defect, Doctor?"
"A Yes, it is."
In the case, the trial judge instructed the jury on the offense of murder and the defense of insanity. He did not charge on manslaughter.
* * *
Barnett [argues] that the jury should have been charged on "reckless" manslaughter, because the evidence of his mental disease or defect at the time of the offense rendered him incapable of forming the intent necessary for murder. He analogizes the psychiatric testimony presented here to evidence of intoxication: although "[i]ntoxication is not a defense to a criminal charge, * * * intoxication is admissible in evidence whenever it is relevant to negate an element of the offense charged." * * *
Barnett argues that the issue of his mental state should have been submitted to the jury under instructions that it could negate the intent requirement for murder, thereby reducing the killing to manslaughter. This contention embodies the concept of "diminished capacity" or "diminished responsibility," and was specifically rejected by the draftsmen of our criminal code. See Ala. Code § 13A-6-3 (Commentary at 158):
"Under § 13A-6-3(a)(2), it was originally proposed to replace the heat of passion' due to provocation criterion with extreme mental or emotional disturbance,' * * * which approach is being adopted by many modern criminal codes. * * * This standard originated with the Model Penal Code § 210.3 * * *
"However, some members of the Advisory Committee considered the proposal unsound, unclear and susceptible of abuse, so it was not adopted, and § 13A-6-3(a)(2) retains the heat of passion' under legal provocation defense. § 13A-6-3 Commentary (emphasis added).
* * *
Although Alabama adopted the criterion for insanity contained in § 4.01 of the Model Penal Code, it did not adopt the accompanying section of the Model Penal Code, § 4.02(1), which provided that "[e]vidence that the defendant suffered from a mental disease or defect is admissible whenever it is relevant to prove that the defendant did or did not have a state of mind which is an element of the offense." * * *
"The rule applied in this jurisdiction is sometimes referred to the all-or-nothing' approach. * * * Under this approach, a defendant must either establish his insanity as a complete defense to or excuse for the crime, or he must be held to full responsibility for the crime charged." * * * Accordingly, Barnett was not entitled to a charge on reckless manslaughter on the theory of diminished capacity. * * *
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