On Monday, we began the week discussing a case out of Quincy in which we had a dead woman discovered on Saturday and a man arrested in connection therewith the same day. We talked about it being a potential domestic violence matter and it became a general posting about homicide investigations and the need to get an attorney right away.
Well, the case has remained in the news and has only gotten more grisly.
Relatives and friends are still offering support to the “neighbor who would shovel your walk”, 52-year-old Joseph B. (hereinafter, the “Defendant”). He has now pleaded not guilty to the assault and eventual murder of 33-year-old Mary B. (hereinafter, the “Deceased”). According to the prosecution, the Defendant choked the Deceased into unconsciousness, had sex with her, then killed her.
We have also learned a bit more about the Defendant’s background. Apparently, according to his supporters, he has a history of mental illness.
He has been held without bail for the crimes which are now alleged to have occurred last Friday.
According to the Commonwealth, the couple had had an argument about a trip to Las Vegas as well as the Deceased’s demand for $500 payment for her rent. Apparently, the Defendant has made a statement that he strangled the Deceased and then put her on the bed, removed her clothing and had sex with her. Thereafter, he allegedly claimed he smothered her with a pillow. The Deceased also had an 11-year-old daughter who had spent the weekend with her father and so was not home at the time her mother was killed.
Apparently, after the killing, the Defendant took two crucifixes and placed one on either side of her head as she lay in the bed.
According to the prosecution, the Defendant then became suicidal. State Police recovered his van in South Boston and, inside, police found a blood-stained knife that he may have used to try to kill himself. The booking report indicates that there were “hesitation cuts on both wrists and neck.”
According to the Defendant’s attorney, his client has undergone a kidney transplant within the past several years and has been undergoing mental health counseling for the last year.
The Defendant is due back in court Oct. 7th.
As the ugly alleged details emerge, so does the likely defense.
First of all, it would appear that the Defendant is not a regular follower of this blog given that he has made a full confession. It is not clear, however, whether that statement was given to police or to someone else.
The most probable defense which seems to be entering the scene is that of diminished capacity. In other words, what is commonly referred to as the “insanity plea”.
Many people still have the wrong idea about the insanity plea. Some will look at the allegations in this case and say, “Well, of course he will ‘get off’ on the insanity plea. He would have to be crazy to have done as he claims.”
This is not necessarily so. The laws regarding the insanity plea are a bit complicated as are most things in the justice system. However, the bottom line inquiry in the plea is whether the defendant was of such a diminished capacity that he could not determine right from wrong. Did he understand the act he was committing? Could he appreciate the consequences of his actions?
In this case, we can already see problems with such a plea. For example, he apparently ran off and made some lame attempts at killing himself, presumably to escape the consequences of his actions. The more suspicious among us might even wonder if the quasi- slicing of himself was simply an attempt to plant the suggestion of mental illness without cutting enough to actually kill himself.
A related issue of even more interest is whether there will be a claim that the Defendant is not fit to stand trial. The test for that is a bit different from the insanity plea. While the insanity plea involves the time of the crime, this issue is whether the Defendant is able to understand the proceedings against him and aid in his own defense. If he is found not to be competent to stand trial by experts, and accepted so by the court, he will go into an institution those experts deterine that he is fit.
Either way, it is a complicated role and obviously one that will decide this man’s future. If you, or someone you love find themselves in such unfortunate circumstances, you want to get an experienced criminal defense attorney.
If you wish to talk to me about the case, feel free to call me at 617-492-3000.
To view the article upon which today’s blog was based, go to: http://www.boston.com/news/local/breaking_news/2009/08/quincy_man_accu_1.html