Monday, January 19, 2009

Jury Nullification or Insanity? You Be The Judge.

In a landmark case for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a San Jose, California, Santa Clara County jury Tuesday found a former Army Captain Sargent Binkley, diagnosed with PTSD not guilty by reason of insanity for robbing a Mountain View, Calif., pharmacy of drugs at gunpoint.

CAPT Binkley, 34, faced a maximum of 22 years and eight months and a minimum of 12 years in state prison after the same jury convicted him last week of the 2006 robbery. He initially spent about two years in county jail awaiting trial and has been in a residential drug treatment program ever since.
The jury's verdict in the sanity phase of the trial Tuesday means Binkley could be treated for the disorder in a state hospital or as an outpatient. He was taken into custody 13 January to be evaluated.

Was this a case of jury nullification?
"What this case means is that the jury stood behind a Soldier," said Charles J. Smith, one of his attorneys. "We strongly believe that Soldiers should get preferential treatment if they come back with problems after their service to our country."
Binkley and his father, Edward, burst into tears when the verdict was announced.
"There was no reason this case should have ever gone to trial," Edward Binkley said, adding that his son turned himself in after committing a second robbery in San Carlos, Calif.
The prosecutor who tried the case, Deborah Medved, and a spokeswoman for the DA's office could not immediately be reached for comment.
Binkley graduated from West Point and served in Bosnia and Honduras before he received a general discharge in 2003. His defense attorneys argued that he became traumatized by two events - guarding a mass grave in Bosnia and shooting a teenager in a Honduran drug raid.
His father said he became addicted to morphine-based painkillers after dislocating his hip while running away from an alcohol-fueled fight in Honduras over a woman.

JANUARY 15, 2009

Sargent Binkley came into the courtroom in a dark green jump suit handcuffed with his hands in front. The bailiff unlocked the handcuffs as soon as Sargent sat down.

Defense proposed that Sargent Binkley be released into his (Chuck Smith's) custody. Smith had procured an ankle bracelet from the Sheriff's Department with GPS monitoring as an added layer of security. Smith attested to Binkley's exemplary performance at the Jericho House, his being negative in all drug tests from two counties, and his continued bail from San Mateo County with appropriate checks from Redwood City staff, as well as continued checks by staff from Santa Clara County.

The DA argued that CA Penal Code requires that persons found guilty of certain crimes including armed robbery are to remain under Court supervised control (e.g. mental hospital, jail) for at least 180 days. DA Medved didn't bring a copy of the code to read so Judge Condron loaned Medved her copy. After the reading, Condron seemed surprised to know about that portion of the law and asked an interogative question "you mean I have no discretion in this matter"? Accepting the law as read by Medved, Condron conceded that she must comply. Further she said that since one of the court appointed doctors, Dr. Seaman, had stated that Binkley still suffered from PTSD and schizophrenia AND that "the jury had obviously used Dr. Seaman's testimony in coming to their verdict", she ruled was prepared to rule.

Defense attorney Smith then introduced another matter by saying that the DA had not turned over a report from her own Crime Lab investigator regarding findings on photos of alleged use of a gun in the robbery. Judge Condron asked Smith when he had requested the report. "Early this week, Monday," said Smith. Condron then asked Medved if she had received the request. "Yes" said Medved. Judge Condron then ordered the report to be turned over to the defense within 24 hours.

Binkley will continue to be held over in Santa Clara County until his next appearance which will be 9:00 a.m., Thursday, February 5th. At that time, Judge Condron is expected to have more specifics as to the defendant's disposition, and the Defense may have a motion to overturn the guilt verdict by reason of prosecutorial misconduct.

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