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Maryland man's criminal defense centering around mental state

The mental status of a 21-year-old Gaithersburg man accused of murder is being evaluated at a hospital in Jessup. The man, a son of a former George W. Bush advisor, is accused of killing a 25-year-old with a hatchet. According to reports, the man called police to tell them he had just killed a man. He told police the man tried to break into his house.

Police, though, discovered a bloody scene in the man's garage and the body of the victim in the woods nearby, raising questions as to the killer's story. At this time, the man charged with the murder is undergoing a medical evaluation to determine if he is competent to stand trial. If he is, his criminal defense team may still argue that he is not criminally responsible for the killing because of his mental state as well as other possible factors.

Commonly referred to as the insanity defense, this argument is one of the most misunderstood elements of criminal law. It varies from state to state with different criteria and alternative punishments. Its underlying importance, however, is a time-honored principle of American criminal law.

Long ago, lawmakers decided that criminal penalties should only be imposed on those that had the requisite mental culpability. As a result, the prosecution in almost every criminal case must prove the accused's intent.

This can sometimes be the most difficult element to establish. While a jury may assume intent from certain acts, a valid defense may bring that assumption into question. Local Upper Marlboro attorneys can use evidence of a lawful intent in a plea negotiation. If there is a reasonable question as to intent, these criminal defense professionals may be able to reduce penalties or have criminal charges dismissed. Those accused of a crime under such circumstances can get their case comprehensively reviewed by a criminal defense attorney.

Source:, "Gaithersburg man accused in hatchet murder being mentally evaluated," St. John Barned-Smith, Nov. 11, 2013

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