Defendants suffering from mental illness will be able to enter two new pleas beginning November 1 following the signing of Senate Bill 1214 earlier this week. The bill, by Sen. Ron Sharp and Rep. Justin Wood, modifies the “not guilty by reason of insanity” (NGRI) defense by creating the “guilty but with mental defect” and “not guilty by reason of mental illness” defenses.
“I’m so pleased that my colleagues in the legislature and Governor Fallin supported this important measure. The insanity defense is for those who aren’t mentally capable of understanding their actions,” said Sharp, R-Shawnee. “These two new defenses will hold accountable those who are mentally ill and hurt and kill people just for pleasure. Juries will be able to send these offenders to prison where they belong rather than a mental hospital.”
Under SB 1214, those found guilty who are mentally ill and have an antisocial personality disorder will not be able to use the NGRI defense and will have to complete the sentence for their crime.
Those who plea or are found “guilty with mental defect” will face the same sentence as other offenders who commit the same crime and will serve in the custody of a county jail or the Oklahoma Department of Corrections. They must be examined by the state Department of Mental Health prior to release on probation. The agency will make recommendations for treatment within 45 days of the exam, which will serve as a condition for probation. The recommended treatment will be paid for by the probationers and if they stop treatment, their probation will be revoked. Every six months during the probation period, the probationer will also be required to file a psychiatric report with the probation officers and the sentencing court.
Pottawatomie County District Attorney, Richard Smothermon, requested the bill after representing the family of East Central University student, Generro Sanchez, who was murdered in 2012 by Jerrod Murray. Murray kidnapped and shot Sanchez multiple times saying he just wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone. He was charged with murder but found not guilty by reason of insanity under Oklahoma law and sentenced to serve in the custody of the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health.
“As tragic as Generro’s murder was, passage of this law ensures that his death was not in vain,” said Smothermon. “This law has given his family the justice that they never got in a courtroom.”
The new law goes into effect November 1, 2016.