United States v. Denny-Shaffer

2 F.3d 999 (10th Cir. 1993)



Where the issue of insanity is otherwise properly raised, a federal criminal defendant is due a jury instruction on insanity when the evidence would allow a reasonable jury to find that insanity is shown with convincing clarity. Recalling the jury's right to determine credibility, to weigh the evidence, and to draw justifiable inferences of fact, the district court must construe the evidence most favorably to the defendant. Although the "clear and convincing" standard is a fairly high one, "clear and convincing" does not call for the highest levels of proof. If evidence would permit the jury to find to a high probability that defendant was insane, an insanity instruction is required.


After defendant's attempt to invoke the insanity defense failed, she pursued a bench trial that resulted in her conviction and sentencing for interstate transportation of a kidnap victim, a violation of 18 U.S.C.S. § 1201. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s judgment and remanded the case with instructions as to whether defendant's insanity defense should be submitted to the jury and, if so, how the jury should be charged.


Did the trial judge err in rejecting the insanity defense for insufficiency of the evidence thereon, and in refusing to submit jury instructions on the defense?




Under 18 U.S.C.S. § 17, the trial court erred in finding that defendant raised insufficient evidence to justify submitting to a jury an insanity defense based on defendant's diagnosed multiple personality disorder. Defendant carried her burden of introducing evidence which, construed most favorably to her, permitted the jury to find to a high probability that defendant was insane when she committed the offense. To rely on the defense, defendant was not obligated to show that her alternate personalities were also unable to appreciate the nature and quality or wrongfulness of their acts. Because kidnapping under 18 U.S.C.S. § 1201(a) was a continuing offense, defendant's insanity defense applied to both defendant's abduction of the victim as well as defendant's later confinement, holding, and transportation of him.

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