Taxpayers pay for criminal ‘insanity’ cases

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UTICA, NY (WUTR-TV) — Oneida County’s top prosecutor says criminal defendants are more frequently claiming ‘insanity’ as a line of defense, and it’s costing taxpayers.

“It can cost anyplace between $25,000 to $50,000, depending on how complex the case is,” Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said.

While the DA says the frequency of criminal defendants taking the insanity route is rising, he is speculative of the cause.

“In our state, we’ve released a lot of people that used to be confined that were suffering mental health issues,” McNamara said.

The county taxpayer burden starts when the defendant claims insanity.

Thereafter, prosecutors (district attorney’s offices; county-funded) hire professionals to compile a mental health exam–something the defense also does on their own.

If the defendant claiming insanity is represented by a public defender or assigned counsel, their mental exam is also expensed by county taxpayers

McNamara shared the price tag to the DA’s office for a number of local, high-profile, insanity cases.

  • Tasheonia Hills: $43,000
  • Kevin Adams: $26,000
  • Ryan Peeler: $23,000
  • Paul Bumbalo: $16,000
  • Naythen Aubain: UNDETERMINED

Aubain’s defense team (the county public defender’s office) says they’re currently compiling a mental exam amid his case in Oneida County Court.

“Depending on the case, you might have to have all the evidence turned over to the forensic psychiatrist so that they can make an evaluation. Sometimes you need transcripts, and sometimes if there’s video-taped confession, all those kinds of things have to be reproduced and sent,” McNamara said.

The DA says he sees “the cost of Aubain being somewhat consistent with the cost of Bumbalo.”

Aubain, of Utica, is accused of killing and dismembering his grandmother and her landlord in January.

If someone is successful in their insanity defense, they are confined with the New York State Office of Mental Health.

In these cases, the county does not stop writing checks, once a judge sides with the defense.

“In six months, there has to be a re-evaluation of the person. If it’s deemed that they are dangerously mentally ill, then they are held for two more years. So, every two years we have to go back and fight whether or not they should remain confined. If our forensic psychiatrist is just reviewing records and writing a report for us, ti might be…’ ‘…about $5,000. If it’s more complicated, we’re talking about going and testifying.”

Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara

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