A bill that backers say closes a small but potentially dangerous loophole in the state’s criminal justice law has passed in the Legislature and now goes to the governor’s desk.
The bill modifies the state’s “not guilty by reason of insanity” law to include a provision for “guilty but with mental defect.”
That’s an important distinction because it could mean the difference between a dangerous criminal being locked up or free on the streets.
That’s what happened in the homicide case of 18-year-old Generro Sanchez. Sanchez was an East Central University student killed by his classmate, Jerrod Murray, back in 2012.
Murray told police he committed the crime because he wanted to see what it felt like to kill someone.
He was found not guilty by reason of insanity.
Then, Pottawatomie County District Attorney Richard Smothermon said, “38-days after he got sent to Vinita some doctor in Vinita said he was fine, he was free, he should go into society. He was no longer a danger to society which is just an absurd result.”
The bill prohibits anyone diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder who is found guilty but with a mental illness from using the not guilty by reason of insanity defense.
A plea of guilty with mental defect would lead to the same sentence that anyone convicted of the same crime would receive.
The bill passed unanimously in the Senate.
“I’m pleased,” said Jeana West, Sanchez’ mother. “It makes me feel good that there are others out there that are sympathetic and realize that we need to change. I hear him in the back of my mind telling me ‘mom, let it go. It’s OK. I’m OK. Let it go,' but I couldn’t.”