Defense lawyers have been telegraphing for months that they were contemplating the insanity defense. Surely, they have had ample time to evaluate their client. And Colorado's insanity plea law is so canted in favor of defendants that it really does make one wonder why they would be stalling.
Also on Tuesday, lawyers for Austin Sigg, accused of kidnapping and murdering 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, asked for a delay in entering a plea. It was granted. We have to wonder if Sigg, who reportedly confessed to the murder, is considering an insanity plea as well.
When a defendant invokes the insanity defense in Colorado, prosecutors have the burden of proving a defendant was sane.
And prosecutors may not be able to have their own expert conduct a psychiatric evaluation on the suspect. That's a gray area in Colorado law, and in at least two recent high-profile cases, judges did not allow prosecutors their own evaluations.
We think lawmakers ought to clarify the matter and allow prosecutors an opportunity to have an expert examine the defendant.
The burden-of-proof issue becomes more stark when you realize it is handled differently in most of the rest of the country. In 40 states and in federal court, defense attorneys are require to prove whether a client is insane.
In Colorado, it's a significant advantage for the defense to not have the burden of proof.
State Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, had introduced a bill this session that would have shifted the burden of proof in insanity cases from the prosecution to the defense.
A House committee killed the bill, led by Democrats citing due process and constitutional concerns. We had hoped the measure would have at least made it to the floor for debate.
The playing field in insanity cases ought to be fair for both sides, and at this juncture it is clear that prosecutors are at a disadvantage.
The Denver Post, March 14