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08/19/87 DENNIS W. CHRISTOPHER v. STATE INDIANA

Filed: August 19, 1987.

DENNIS W. CHRISTOPHER, APPELLANT,
v.
STATE OF INDIANA, APPELLEE



APPEAL FROM THE CLARK CIRCUIT COURT, The Honorable Clifford H. Maschmeyer, Judge.

DeBRULER, J., Shepard, C.j., Dickson, J., concur. Pivarnik, J., concurs and Dissents with separate opinion in which Givan, J., concurs.

Author: Debruler

DeBRULER, J.

Appellant was charged with the offense of murder in the stabbing death of his wife. On motion he was found presently incompetent to stand trial, committed to a state hospital, and was later determined able to stand trial. He interposed the defense of insanity set out in I.C. 35-41-3-6 claiming that he was not responsible for the killing by reason of mental illness or defect and was tried by a jury which returned the verdict authorized by I.C. 35-36-2-3 that he was guilty but mentally ill at the time of the crime. The sentencing court found aggravating circumstances and enhanced the standard sentence to the very maximum authorized for the crime of murder, I.C. § 35-50-2-3, giving a sixty year total.

Appellant raises the following issues in this appeal:

(1) Whether the verdict of guilty but mentally ill was contrary to law and error.

(2) Sufficiency of evidence to show a knowing or intentional killing.

(3) Error in permitting the introduction of five photographs of the victim's body.

(4) Whether the enhanced sentence is manifestly unreasonable.

I

Appellant maintains that the verdict of guilty but mentally ill at the time of the crime was contrary to the law and the evidence. It is his contention that the evidence was without conflict and supports only a verdict of not responsible by reason of insanity at the time of the crime. The verdict of guilty but mentally ill is a finding against appellant on the defense of not responsible by reason of insanity, a defense upon which he had the burden of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. Consequently our standard of review on the claim made is that we neither weigh the evidence nor resolve questions of credibility of witnesses, and from this viewpoint we consider whether the evidence is without conflict and leads to but one Conclusion, namely one not reached by the trier of fact. Gentry v. State (1984), Ind., 471 N.E.2d 263.

Lacking substantial capacity, due to mental disease or defect, to appreciate wrongfulness of conduct or to conform conduct to the law, is the basis of the insanity defense, as defined by the statute applicable to this case. I.C. § 35-41-3-6, since amended. Substantial disturbance of thought, feeling, or behavior, together with an impairment of the ability to function due to psychiatric disorder, does not on the other hand satisfy as a basis for the insanity defense, but would warrant the finding of guilty but mentally ill where guilt was established. I.C. § 35-36-1-1.

The evidence presented included the following. Appellant's wife died in her bed as a direct result of multiple gross wounds to the neck and torso inflicted with a large kitchen knife. The couple's two small children were in the house. When the police arrived, appellant was on the floor and unconscious as a result of the ingestion of an overdose of prescription drugs. Appellant was arrested and confined in the hospital, where over the next several days he admitted stabbing her in anger resulting from his belief that she was trying to commit him to a mental hospital and was seeing another man. At the time, appellant was on a weekend release from Southern Indiana Mental Health Center where he was a voluntary patient. The purpose of the release was to permit him to enroll in college classes and to sign up for his VA benefits.

Appellant had a history of consistent use of illegal drugs including amphetamines and marijuana. He had been experiencing delusions over a period of several years, and had at least twice previously admitted himself for psychiatric care. One medical report stated that he suffered from organic delusional syndrome due to amphetamines. His delusions ...


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