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Florida teen accused of attempted murder pleads insanity

When someone is accused of committing a violent crime, perhaps what interests the public the most is the defendant's motive. This is especially true for serious felony charges, such as attempted murder. But sometimes a person is so antagonized that a mental disorder sets in, along with the inability to distinguish between right and wrong. And sometimes a jury is asked to decide on whether the accused was insane at the time an alleged crime occurred.

This is exactly what one jury in Fort Lauderdale will be asked to determine in the examination of whether a teenage boy attempted to murder a girl at his school more than two years ago. The defendant is now 17 years old, and at the time of his alleged crime, his older brother had recently committed suicide.

Reportedly, during a 45-minute exchange in May 2010, the victim had texted the defendant the words "now go visit your dead brother." According to prosecutors, the defendant later rode his bike to the middle school, found the victim and proceeded to stomp and kick her until a teacher intervened. The victim survived but still suffers from mental problems.

In order for the jury to acquit, they must agree with the defense's argument that the boy was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his brother's suicide. The disorder would then suggest that he could not distinguish between right and wrong. If the jury doesn't agree, the defendant will be convicted of attempted first-degree murder, and he could spend the next 50 years in prison. Even if he is acquitted, it has been speculated that he could still spend the same amount of time in a state mental institution.

It may go without saying, but individuals who have been accused of a violent crime such as attempted murder should seek legal guidance in putting forth the best defense possible. There may be a variety of options for defending against criminal charges, and defendants will want to be aware of the strategy that is right for them.

Source: Brandenton Herald, "Fla. Teen using insanity defense in girl's beating," Curt Anderson, July 6, 2012

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Andrew M. Coffey has been recognized as a Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer by the Florida Bar. Certification is the highest level of recognition by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in the areas of law approved for certification by the Supreme Court of Florida.

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