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United States v. Sennett

decided: November 14, 1974.

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
DONALD LEE SENNETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, Southern Division - No. S CR 73 18 Omer Poos, Judge.

Sprecher and Tone, Circuit Judges, and Perry, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Tone

TONE, Circuit Judge.

Defendant Donald Lee Sennett was convicted of bank robbery and sentenced under Section 5010 (b) of the Youth Corrections Act, 18 U.S.C. ยง 5010 (b). At the trial, his only defense was insanity. He contends that the giving of an instruction referring to a presumption of sanity and argument based on that instruction created prejudicial error, that other trial errors occurred, and that refusal to disclose the presentence report was also error.

The defendant, while 18 years old and a freshman at Illinois State University, robbed the People's Bank of Lexington, Illinois, of about $7,964. He was arrested within an hour after the crime and made a complete confession.

At the trial before a jury, the defendant, admitting that he had committed the robbery, raised the defense of insanity and offered the testimony of a psychiatrist who had examined him four days after the robbery to the effect that at the time of the robbery the defendant suffered from a psycho-neurotic obsessive-compulsive neurosis, which, although it did not make him incapable of distinguishing right from wrong, did render him unable to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. The Government, in rebuttal, offered expert testimony tending to refute the testimony of the defendant's expert.

References to the Presumption of Sanity

The District Court gave the jury, verbatim, the insanity instruction mandated by this court, sitting in banc, in United States v. Shapiro, 383 F.2d 680 (7th Cir. 1967), which is as follows:

"The defendant has interposed insanity as a defense. The law presumes that a defendant is sane. This presumption is rebuttable. Where a defendant introduces some evidence that he had a mental disease or defect at the time of the commission of the crime charged, the prosecution must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant did not have a mental disease or defect, or that despite the mental disease or defect he had substantial capacity both to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct and to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

In addition, the court, at the request of the defendant, gave the following additional instruction on the issue of insanity:

"Under the defendant's plea of not guilty, there is an issue as to his sanity at the time of the alleged offense. The law does not hold a person criminally accountable for his conduct while insane, since an insane person is not capable of forming the intent essential to the commission of a crime.

"The sanity of the defendant at the time of the commission of the alleged offense is an element of the crime charged and must be established by the Government beyond reasonable doubt, just as it must establish every other element of the offense charged.

"A defendant is insane within the meaning of these instructions if, at the time of the alleged criminal conduct, as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

In his closing argument the prosecutor paraphrased the Shapiro instruction, including its recital of the presumption of sanity, and argued that the defendant's evidence of insanity "was so weak the jury could legitimately disregard it and stop right there, but you may, on the other hand, wish to weigh all of the evidence, both the Government's and the defense in this case." Defendant did not object to this argument, but he had previously objected, at a ...


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