Monday, December 08, 2008

"Guilty But Insane." Lets Make It Happen

On Thursday the Houston Chronicle reported the tragedy of Kristen Dewald:

In the early hours of the next morning, Sept. 7, she telephoned police to say her 33-year-old husband was dead.

She told investigators she stabbed him in the chest with a large butcher knife as he slept.

On Wednesday, Kristen Dewald admitted to the killing. Three psychiatrists determined she was legally insane during that time, a valid defense that annulled the need for a trial.

The 39-year-old former nursing student was found not guilty of murder by reason of insanity in state District Judge George Godwin's court.

She will be moved to a mental health facility within the Texas Department of Criminal Justice system where she will be evaluated annually for "future dangerousness," her attorney, George Parnham, said.

If it is determined that she is no longer a danger to the community, Dewald could be released, but will always be subject to rules and orders of the court.

If you are wondering what that means, it means that Kristen Dewald, an admitted cold blooded murderer, could be released to freedom in as little as 3 years.

"Guilty by Reason of Insanity" in Texas doles out this slap on the wrist type of punishment. It's time for the law to change and *Tracy Wells is trying to do just that.

6 1/2 years ago Tracy's sister was 25 years old when she was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Michael Allen Montgomery. *Susan was trying to break up with him and a week later he killed her. He turned himself in and tried the "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" defense. Through the diligence of Tracy providing evidence and witnesses, he got 60 years with 30 years possible parole.

Tracy suffered from major Post Traumatic stress after the trial. She got help with behavioral Therapy. She also made it her mission to make sure other murderers in Texas do not get away with murder or attempted murder with a "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" plea.

Attempted murderers like Nathan Dale Campbell who stabbed his girlfriend's eye's out with a steak knife, but she lived. Campbell received "Not Guilty by reason of insanity" and was in the mental institution for 5 years. Usually, these perpetrators get out in 3, however Nathan assaulted someone in the mental institute and that got him 2 more years. To add insult to injury, upon release he moved close to his victim and the victims mother. They were forced to move out of Texas. According to Tracy, Nathan Dale Campbell was seen working at local eatery in Houston a year ago.

Murderers like Kenneth Pierott, who beat his handicapped sister to death with a dumbell got "Not guilty by reason of insanity." He served 3 years in the mental institution. When he got out he moved in with his girlfriend and they had a child together. The girlfriend had a 5 year old from another marriage. One day he smothered to death that 5 year old in the oven. He put the child in the oven, turned the knob to broil and went to bed. The oven’s pilot light had malfunctioned, so instead of being baked to death, the child asphyxiated. For that murder he got a prosecution, but if he would have been in jail from the first murder, that child would be alive today.

These are just a few examples, and one might argue that they are a small percentage of the guilty, but to the victims and their families it is no small thing. They wanted justice and did not receive it. They have to live every day knowing a convicted murderer of their loved one roams free.

Tracy got busy 4 years ago. She felt at the very least victims should be informed with the defendants in their case are released. Her representative would not respond to her letters so she spoke with a friend of the Mayor's Crime Victims Services and was able to get some attention. Proper wording was crafted for a bill called HB 291 for the Texas legislature and it was passed in 2005. The bill requires notification of a victim upon the discharge or release into the community of outpatient care of certain defendants found not guilty by reason of insanity. It is now law thanks to Tracy and "Justice for All."

Tracy isn't done yet and this effort may be the most important of all. She tells me that initially "Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity" was meant for homeless vandalism, like breaking a store window or something of that nature. Those people don't need to crowd our jail system. Lawyers for murderer's saw this as a loophole, so to speak, for their clients. She feels that is why we need a "Guilty but insane" sentence, so victims can be assured that that the sentence will fit the crime.

Tracy feels that the fact that the accused is afflicted with some mental ailment and did not know the nature of his act and that the act was wrong should not eliminate guilt. It is only with the fact of intent to commit a crime that a jury need concern itself. The imposing of a sentence should not prevent the remanding of the murderer to a hospital for the criminal insane and, if cured, he should serve the remainder of his unexpired term among sane convicts .

Right now Tracy is trying to get a committment from a Senator to see if he will or will not carry it. It doesn't have a bill number yet. I, for one, would like to see this one go through.

*Names have been changed to protect the innocent. The guilty are on their own.