On November 19, 2015, Albert and Ruth Amoroso heard a knock at the door. When they opened it, they found their next-door neighbor, Freddy Sanchez bleeding. Investigators say that Sanchez had been stabbed 14 times by Zachary Penna. Ruth asked Sanchez where his husband, Wayne Dixon was and then (foolishly, she admitted) went next door to find him. Wayne Dixon was lying on the floor dying also having been stabbed multiple times.
Now, Zachary Penna is on trial for committing the double murder but one thing that isn’t clear in this case, is why he did it. Prosecutors say that Penna was on a spree during which he attempted to steal the couple’s car. When they didn’t comply, he stabbed them multiple times.
Penna’s Attorneys Rely on Insanity Defense
Penna’s attorneys are admitting that their client did the terrible crime for which he was accused, but at the time, he wasn’t in his right mind. They say Penna was suffering psychosis, believed that he was being followed, and needed to steal a car to conceal his identity. They say Penna suffered from untreated schizoaffective disorder.
Schizoaffective disorder is characterized by elements of bipolar mood disturbances along with psychosis. The disorder is typically treated with antipsychotics and mood stabilizers.
The legal definition of insanity in the State of Florida requires a defendant to show that they were not in their right state of mind while they were committing the attacks and didn’t understand the consequences of their actions and therefore didn’t understand that it was wrong. Very few individuals who plead insanity will get away with the crime they committed. It’s a very difficult case to make and very unconvincing to a jury.
Why the Insanity Plea Normally Fails
An individual can understand that their actions have consequences even if they are psychotic. For instance, voices in your head can tell you to kill someone, just like voices outside of your head can, but you can still make a choice as to whether or not you do it. The choice Penna made was to kill two people for reasons that are not entirely clear. The prosecution’s theory was that he was trying to steal a car. The defense holds that Penna was induced by psychotic delusion to believe that he was under attack.
The reason why this defense doesn’t work is that even if Penna was induced by his delusion to be paranoid, think that people were after him, and then steal a car, stealing someone’s car against their will and killing them for saying no is morally wrong.
Another reason why the insanity defense is a bad bet is that the defense finds itself taking on the burden of proof. So regardless of how convoluted his rationale was for committing the crimes, he still committed them for personal gain.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
Have you been charged with a violent crime? Let the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. help you defend yourself from the charges. Give us a call and we can begin preparing your defense immediately.