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Defense claims insanity in case of suspected Twilight Rapist

By Sonny Long
Aug. 16, 2011 at 3:16 a.m.


rules on INSANITY DEFENSE

Texas has some of the most restrictive laws concerning the insanity plea in the U.S. In order to qualify as legally insane, a defendant must be able to demonstrate that at the time of the crime, he or she did not understand that his or her actions were wrong. This is a common definition of insanity, but Texas law is unusual in some ways:

The law does not clarify whether the word "wrong" refers to morality or the law.

Jurors are not given any guidance on how to define "wrong."

Jurors are not informed of what the sentence for the defendant will be if he or she is found not guilty by reason of insanity.

SOURCE: austin-criminal-lawyer.com

EDNA - Attorneys for Billy Joe Harris will assert that Harris suffers from insanity when the trial for the suspect in the so-called Twilight Rapist case begins in September.

Attorney Alan Cohen filed the paperwork Aug. 9 and introduced the notice of intent to raise an insanity defense in court before District Judge Skipper Koetter during a hearing Tuesday in the District Courtroom of the Jackson County Courthouse.

The change came after defense ordered psychiatric examination of Harris.

Harris already has been examined by a state psychologist and a defense psychologist for competency to stand trial.

"Right from the inception of the case, I knew there were issues dealing with, not his mental competency, but his thought processes dealing with very abstract thinking and very bizarre thinking," Cohen said.

"It's his perception of the world and where he fits in the world. I can't really go into details, but there was enough to raise concerns and those concerns have been validated by two doctors who have examined him. They are in agreement that there is sufficient evidence of his thinking process to raise this defense," Cohen aid.

Jackson County District Attorney Bobby Bell then made a motion, approved by Koetter, to allow a state expert to also examine the defendant.

The Houston defense attorney said his client understands the charges against him and the legal process he is going through.

Cohen also made a motion for additional funds for DNA testing.

"To deny these funds would be denying my client due process of law and his ability to challenge evidence," Cohen said.

Bell took the position that no more funds should be provided. The judge agreed.

Koetter also denied a defense motion to allow a defense DNA expert to testify via Skype over the Internet.

Harris is charged in a series of attacks on women, often elderly or disabled, and burglaries in South and Central Texas, including four in Yoakum, that began two years ago.

In Jackson County, Harris faces charges of burglary of a habitation with the intent to commit sexual assault and burglary of a habitation on Dec. 4, and a count of aggravated sexual assault of a disabled person on Jan. 8.

Additional charges in other counties are also pending against Harris.

DNA has linked the suspect to six assaults and Texas Rangers recovered evidence in his home from four burglaries, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Edna Police arrested Harris on Jan. 8. He remains in the Jackson County Jail.

Jury selection for his trial is scheduled for Sept. 12.

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