Home Table of Contents

WPIC 20.01 Insanity at Time of Offense—Definition

11 WAPRAC WPIC 20.01Washington Practice Series TMWashington Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal

11 Wash. Prac., Pattern Jury Instr. Crim. WPIC 20.01 (5th Ed)
Washington Practice Series TM
Washington Pattern Jury Instructions--Criminal
December 2021 Update
Washington State Supreme Court Committee on Jury Instructions
Part IV. Defenses
WPIC CHAPTER 20. Insanity
WPIC 20.01 Insanity at Time of Offense—Definition
In addition to the plea of not guilty, the defendant has entered a plea of insanity existing at the time of the act charged.
Insanity existing at the time of the commission of the act charged is a defense.
For a defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity you must find that, as a result of mental disease or defect, the defendant's mind was affected to such an extent that the defendant was unable to perceive the nature and quality of the acts with which the defendant is charged or was unable to tell right from wrong with reference to the particular acts with which the defendant is charged.
NOTE ON USE
Use in every case in which the defense of insanity is in issue.
COMMENT
RCW 9A.12.010.
The M'Naghten Rule is the law of this state. For discussions of the rule, see State v. Ferrick, 81 Wn.2d 942, 506 P.2d 860 (1973); State v. Cogswell, 54 Wn.2d 240, 339 P.2d 465 (1959); and State v. Thomas, 8 Wn.App. 495, 507 P.2d 153 (1973). Note that the statute has a two-pronged insanity defense connected by an “or” in contrast to the case law that preceded the statute.
In State v. Crenshaw, 98 Wn.2d 789, 659 P.2d 488 (1983), the trial court instructed in the language of WPIC 20.01 (the statutory language), but added a paragraph to the end of the instruction stating that the terms “right and wrong” refer “to knowledge of a person at the time of committing an act that he was acting contrary to the law.” Although the Supreme Court found that the instruction was not reversible error on three alternative grounds, it emphasized that only the statutory definition of insanity should be given and that the trial court should not attempt to add an explanation of whether the phrase “right or wrong” means right or wrong in the moral sense or in the legal sense to the instruction. The court noted that although the law is not entirely clear, the distinction between moral and legal wrong is usually insignificant.
Even if the relevant inquiry is into the defendant's ability to tell moral right from wrong, it is the morals of society, not the individual, that are pertinent. See State v. Crenshaw, 98 Wn.2d 789, 659 P.2d 488 (1983). Because society's moral judgment is generally the same as its legal judgment, the distinction between the two is of little practical significance. See also State v. Chanthabouly, 164 Wn.App. 104, 133–36, 262 P.3d 144 (2011) (knowledge of illegality of actions central to wrongfulness determination); State v. Johnson, 150 Wn.App. 663, 673, 208 P.3d 1265 (2009) (wrongfulness focus is on society's morals rather than individual's morals).
A special test may apply if a defendant believed, because of mental disease or defect, that he or she was acting under a direct command from a deity. Cases call this a “deific decree.” Under such circumstances, the defendant may assert a defense of insanity, even though the defendant knew that the act violated human laws. State v. Cameron, 100 Wn.2d 520, 526–27, 674 P.2d 650 (1983); State v. Potter, 68 Wn.App. 134, 144–50, 842 P.2d 481 (1992). When there is evidence of a “deific decree,” the court can properly give an instruction that equates “wrong” with moral wrong, rather than legal wrong. Such an instruction is not, however, required. It is equally proper for the court to use the language of WPIC 20.01 without modification. State v. Applin, 116 Wn.App. 818, 824, 67 P.3d 1152 (2003).
Problems have arisen in defining insanity for defendants who suffer from dissociative identity disorder (DID) (formerly known as multiple personality disorder or MPD). In State v. Wheaton, 121 Wn.2d 347, 850 P.2d 507 (1993), the Washington Supreme Court found itself unable to formulate a proper instruction that would apply to this situation. This problem may, however, be mostly theoretical. In a 1999 decision, the Washington Supreme Court found there was no consensus in the scientific community on how DID affects individuals suffering from it. As a result, testimony about the effects of that condition was inadmissible under ER 702. State v. Greene, 139 Wn.2d 64, 984 P.2d 1024 (1999), habeas relief granted, Greene v. Lambert, 288 F. 3d 1081 (9th Cir. 2002).
In State v. Anderson, 44 Wn.App. 644, 723 P.2d 464 (1986), the court held that the “not guilty by reason of insanity” statute, RCW 9A.12.010, is not unconstitutionally overbroad and does not violate the establishment clause of either the First Amendment or article I, section 11 of the Washington Constitution because of the statute's interpretation in Cameron. In reaching this holding, the court found that invocation of the insanity defense is not conditioned on any activity or belief protected or proscribed by the First Amendment.
It is error to instruct the jury on the defense of insanity absent substantial evidence that the statutory elements may be satisfied. Evidence of voluntary intoxication is, by itself, insufficient to justify submitting the defense of insanity to the jury. Chronic addiction to alcohol, by itself, is likewise insufficient. Alcohol and drug related insanity may only be used as an insanity defense when the influence of alcohol or drugs triggers an underlying psychotic disorder of a settled nature, such as delirium tremens. State v. Wicks, 98 Wn.2d 620, 657 P.2d 781 (1983) (insanity instruction properly refused).
Upon motion for a judgment of acquittal by reason of insanity, RCW 10.77.080, the court should not send the issue to the jury simply because the evidence is conflicting, but rather should grant the motion “if the evidence preponderates in favor of the defendant.” State v. Wheaton, 121 Wn.2d 347, 850 P.2d 507 (1993), quoting State v. Sommerville, 111 Wn.2d 524, 531, 760 P.2d 932 (1988).
Evidence that a defendant was significantly impaired in the ability to perceive the nature and quality of the acts is not sufficient to justify instructions on the defense of insanity; RCW 9A.12.010(1)(a) requires that a defendant be unable to so perceive and not merely be limited. State v. Jamison, 94 Wn.2d 663, 619 P.2d 352 (1980).
On the defense of intoxication, see WPIC 18.10 (Intoxication—Defense). For a general discussion of the defense of insanity, see Fine, 13B Washington Practice, Criminal Law and Sentencing, chapter 39, section 39:2 (3d. ed.).
Unlike other defenses, the defense of insanity must be raised by plea. RCW 10.77.030(1); CrR 4.2(a). A competent defendant may refuse to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, if that decision is made knowingly and intelligently. State v. Jones, 99 Wn.2d 735, 664 P.2d 1216 (1983). Even after the plea is entered, the court may permit a knowing and intelligent withdrawal of the insanity defense. State v. Hartley, 56 Wn.App. 562, 784 P.2d 550 (1990). As with other defenses, the court should not submit the defense of insanity to the jury unless there is evidence to support it. State v. Piche, 71 Wn.2d 583, 588–89, 430 P.2d 522 (1967); State v. Canaday, 79 Wn.2d 647, 677, 488 P.2d 1064 (1971), vacated on other grounds, 408 U.S. 940, 92 S. Ct. 2878, 33 L. Ed. 2d 764 (1972).
[Current as of March 2019.]
End of Document