A 46-year-old Asian-American woman has been accused of attempting to firebomb a Buddhist temple. According to police, the woman had five Molotov cocktails, four of which she hurled at the temple setting it ablaze, and a fifth that she stuffed into a mailbox. The woman is facing charges of criminal mischief and possessing an improvised incendiary device. Her bond has been set at $100,000. Authorities are considering whether or not to pursue harsher charges against her. Meanwhile, her family says that she has been suffering from mental illness ever since she first attended the Buddhist temple in 2016. According to her son, she believed that something was inside of her.
Is she competent to stand trial?
The court will likely order a competency hearing to determine if the defendant is competent to stand trial. This is different from an insanity defense. A competency hearing determines if the defendant is currently in a state of mind where they understand the accusations against them and can participate in their own defense. No formal assessment of guilt is conducted at this point. Psychiatrists are used to determine if the defendant can understand the charges they are facing. If they rule that the defendant cannot understand the charges, the prosecution has the authority to request another psychiatrist to confirm that belief. Once the prosecution runs out of psychiatrists to poll, the patient is remanded to a forensic psychiatric hospital where their mental health is improved until they are able to understand the charges against them. At that point, they can stand trial.
Is the defendant innocent by reason of insanity?
Juries don’t like to hand out free passes to the criminally insane. If you’re evil enough to burn a place of worship, your reasoning—no matter how deluded—shouldn’t matter. But an issue comes into play when the defendant believes that they are doing a good thing by harming the temple. If, for example, the defendant believed that she had a spirit inside her that would continue to harass her until she carried out its orders, she may have believed erroneously that she was under the coercion of an evil spirit. In states like Texas, you might still be found guilty since demonic spirits are not moral authorities. If, however, an angel was telling you to burn the Buddhist temple because it had become infested with demonic spirits and needed to be purified, the defendant would be under the belief that what they were doing was actually a benefit to society, not just themselves.
Again, a defendant may be clinically unwell if they believe that burning the temple will get them a special place by Satan’s side in hell, but they are choosing to do the bidding of an imagined evil. Since their intent is to carry out the evil acts of an evil agent for personal gain, they know right from wrong and choose wrong anyway.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If Satan tells you to kill someone, our legal advice is to simply say no. Otherwise, you may need a West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney. Call The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today to schedule an appointment and we can begin going over your options immediately.