The State Attorney’s office for Palm Beach County, run by Dave Aronberg, botched the murder prosecution of Tilus Lebrun, who killed West Boca’s Jimmy Karaloukas at the victim’s Jimmy the Greek restaurant.
Lebrun was just found not guilty by reason of insanity on Monday on all charges including subsequent incidents of felony battery on law enforcement officers.
The insanity defense is governed by Florida Statute 775.027
Insanity is established when:
(a) The defendant had a mental infirmity, disease, or defect; and
(b) Because of this condition, the defendant:
1. Did not know what he or she was doing or its consequences; or
2. Although the defendant knew what he or she was doing and its consequences, the defendant did not know that what he or she was doing was wrong.
Mental infirmity, disease, or defect does not constitute a defense of insanity except as provided in this subsection.
(2) BURDEN OF PROOF.—The defendant has the burden of proving the defense of insanity by clear and convincing evidence.
West Boca News obtained a copy of the psychologist’s report that was prepared for the prosecution. The report starts off with the question asked by the prosecution:
“Whether Mr. Lebrun was legally sane at the time of the offense.”
If you read the statute, that is not the correct question. It is overly simplistic. The psychologist should have been asked to address the language of the statute.
It seems clear that the psychologist would have answered yes to part (a) of the statute – that Lebrun had a mental disease. But the bigger issues are in part (b). Did Lebrun know what he was doing? If so, did he know that what he was doing was wrong?
Those two questions are not addressed in the prosecution psychologist’s report. But the evidence shows Lebrun knew what he was doing. The probable cause affidavit reflects a statement he made right after he was arrested:
The unanswered question is whether Lebrun knew that what he was doing was wrong. For that we know under Florida law that it was his burden (or his lawyer’s) to prove that by clear and convincing evidence. This is a high standard to meet for the defense.
There’s a recent example of this in a case out of Orlando, Rodriguez v. State. In that case Rodriguez had the same diagnosis as Lebrun (paranoid schizophrenia) and the insanity defense was similarly based on hallucinations and delusions. The jury found Rodriguez guilty* even though seven defense expert witnesses testified he was insane and the prosecution did not offer an expert witness.
The appeals court noted in Rodriguez that:
the jurors were free to consider Rodriguez’s hallucinations and delusions as evidence of whether he suffered from a mental infirmity, disease, or defect, [but] they were only permitted to consider whether this condition caused Rodriguez at the time of the offenses to not know what he was doing or the consequences of his actions, or whether he knew that what he was doing was wrong.
Due to blunders by Aronberg’s office the victims and their families were deprived of a fair hearing on this important issue. An Orlando jury faced with similar facts denied the insanity defense. Lebrun’s insanity defense should have been determined by a Palm Beach County jury.
*Although the Rodriguez case was reversed on appeal (on a technical legal issue related to jury instructions), Rodriguez pled guilty before the second trial. He was sentenced to 30 years and later committed suicide in prison.