Wednesday, April 13, 2011

People v. Murdoch (Cal. Ct. App. - April 12, 2011)

Want to see someone who's crazy, but who nonetheless was allowed to represent himself at trial?

Here you go.

This is not a guy who was faking it.  Everyone agreed he had a serious mental illness, but the trial court thought he was competent to stand trial -- as well as to represent himself -- once he was medicated.  He wanted his trial.  Desperately.  He wanted to prove his innocence.  He only asked to represent himself once his attorney asked for a continuance.  The trial judge let him.

What was his defense?  He was accused of assault and battery.  On a person.  So his defense was that the victim was not a "person" and was instead an angel.  So no crime.  Prior to opening statements, he told the court he was going to introduce various pages from the Bible, and that these were relevant because:

"What I have to do here is I have to demonstrate that there's something else going on in this world that people are aware of. I'm going to make allegations about the plaintiffs [victims] in this case that they aren't even human . . . . [W]hat I‟m going to ask is [if] these individuals are from Sodom and Gomorra. They're individuals that are among us that are not human. There's a saying,'when pigs fly.' Shoulder blades are symbolic of angelic beings.  These two that are going to be taking the stand do not have shoulder blades. Okay?  All I need to do, okay, if my assertion of their anatomy is correct, they have a bone that runs from here to here. They cannot shrug their shoulders. That's all I'm asking."

Uh, yeah.  That's an awesome defense.  Can't wait to see how that works out for you.

True to form, the defendant only asked one question of the witness on cross-examination:  "Can you shrug your shoulders like this?"  Trying to have his "Perry Mason Moment" when he proved, beyond a shadow of doubt, that the victim was indeed a nonhuman angel.

Stunningly, it didn't work out.  The victim shrugged.  Defendant said, essentially:  "Oops.  I may have the wrong person."  The jury, undeterred by the defendant's brilliant legal strategy, convicted.

The Court of Appeal reverses.  The dude was incompetent.  Or at least there was sufficient evidence to require at least a hearing as to his competence.  Which didn't happen.

Oh, and if the guy's faking it, he's totally committed.  After the trial, "he believed he saw aliens crawl out of his skin and used a blow torch to burn off what he believed were tentacles growing out of his body, suffering second and third degree burns to his neck and arms in the effort."  'Cause maybe nonhuman aliens were infesting his body as well.

The crazy guy's name, by the way, is Murdoch.  Like the crazy guy on the A-Team.  Except for this one's actually crazy.