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Lord v. State (10/28/2011) ap-2330

Lord v. State (10/28/2011) ap-2330

                                                 NOTICE 
        The text of this opinion can be corrected before the opinion is published in the Pacific 
        Reporter.   Readers are encouraged to bring typographical or other formal errors to the 
        attention of the Clerk of the Appellate Courts. 

                                  303 K Street, Anchorage, Alaska   99501
 
                                           Fax:  (907) 264-0878
 
                            E-mail:  corrections @ appellate.courts.state.ak.us
 

               IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ALASKA 

CYNTHIA LORD,                                     ) 
                                                  )         Court of Appeals No. A-10117 
                            Appellant,            )       Trial Court No. 3AN-04-2620 CR 
                                                  ) 
             v.                                   )                   O P I N I O N 
                                                  ) 
STATE OF ALASKA,                                  ) 
                                                  ) 
                            Appellee.             )         No. 2330 - October 28, 2011 
                                                  ) 

                 Appeal     from    the  Superior    Court,    Third    Judicial   District, 
                 Anchorage, Philip R. Volland, Judge. 

                 Appearances:      Josie   Garton,   Assistant    Public   Defender,    and 
                 Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant. 
                 Nancy R. Simel, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Special 
                 Prosecutions and Appeals, Anchorage, and Daniel S. Sullivan, 
                 Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee. 

                 Before:    Coats,    Chief   Judge,   and   Mannheimer       and   Bolger, 
                 Judges. 

                 COATS,      Chief Judge. 

----------------------- Page 2-----------------------

               Cynthia Lord was charged with three counts of murder in the first degree1 

for killing her three sons, Christopher, Michael, and Joseph. Superior Court Judge Philip 

R. Volland conducted a non-jury trial.       Lord asserted that she was not guilty by reason 
of insanity.2  But Judge Volland found that Lord was guilty but mentally ill.3 

               Lord asserts that Judge Volland erred in reaching this verdict. She contends 

that she established that she was not guilty by reason of insanity by showing that she did 

not "appreciate the nature and quality" of her conduct. She also attacks Judge Volland's 

interpretation    of  the   Alaska   statutes   defining   the  defense    of  insanity   and  the 

constitutionality of those statutes. 

               In this decision we uphold Judge Volland's verdict that Lord was guilty but 

mentally ill.  We also uphold the constitutionality of the Alaska statutes which define the 

defense of insanity. 

               Alaska's insanity defense 
               Before 1972, Alaska applied a version of the M'Naghten test.4          Under this 

test, a defendant could be found not guilty by reason of insanity if either she did not 

appreciate    the  nature   and  quality   of  her  conduct   or  she  did  not  understand    the 
wrongfulness of her conduct.5       In 1972, the Alaska Legislature added the "substantial 

        1  AS 11.41.100. 

        2  See generally AS 12.47.010 (stating standard for affirmative defense of insanity). 

        3  See generally AS 12.47.030 (stating standard for guilty but mentally ill). 

        4  See Schade v. State, 512 P.2d 907, 910-11 (Alaska 1973); Chase v. State, 369 P.2d 

997, 1000 (Alaska 1962). 

        5  Hart v. State, 702 P.2d 651, 656 (Alaska App. 1985) (quoting Wayne R. LaFave 

                                                                                   (continued...) 

                                              - 2 -                                       2330
 

----------------------- Page 3-----------------------

capacity test" which allowed the defense of insanity when the defendant lacked   the 
substantial capacity to conform her conduct to the requirements of the law.6 

                In 1982, the legislature amended AS 12.47, greatly limiting the defense of 
insanity.7    Alaska    Statute   12.47.010(a)     limits  the  defense   to  situations   where   the 

defendant "was unable, as a result of mental disease or defect, to appreciate the nature 

and   quality   of   [their]   conduct." In   addition,   AS   12.47.020   provides   a   "diminished 

capacity" defense.     Under that statute, if all of the other elements of a crime have been 

proven, but, because of a mental disease or defect, there is a reasonable doubt about 

whether the defendant had the culpable mental state to commit the crime, the defendant 
must be found not guilty by reason of insanity.8 

                The    major   change    in  the  statutes   establishing  the  insanity   defense   is 

contained in AS 12.47.030.   That statute establishes the verdict of guilty but mentally ill 

if "the defendant lacked, as a result of a mental disease or defect, the substantial capacity 

either to appreciate the wrongfulness of that conduct or to conform that conduct to the 
requirements of the law."9      Under the law as it existed prior to the 1982 amendments, a 

defendant who, because of mental disease or defect, did not appreciate the wrongfulness 

of her criminal act or who could not conform her conduct to the requirements of the law 

        5   (...continued) 

& Austin W. Scott Jr., Criminal Law  37, at 275 (1972)). 

        6   Schade, 512 P.2d at 911. 

        7   Hart, 702 P.2d at 654. 

        8   AS 12.47.020(b). 

        9   AS 12.47.030(a). 

                                                - 3 -                                         2330
 

----------------------- Page 4-----------------------

would be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Under the 1982 amendments, this same 

defendant would be found guilty but mentally ill. 

                A    defendant   found   guilty   but   mentally   ill   is   not   relieved   of   criminal 

responsibility.    Alaska Statute 12.47.050(a) directs the court to sentence a defendant 

found guilty but mentally ill "as provided by law."  In other words, the statute directs the 

sentencing judge to impose a sentence based upon the normal Chaney sentencing criteria. 

The statute directs the Department of Corrections to provide mental health treatment to 

the defendant until the defendant "no longer suffers from a mental disease or defect that 
causes the defendant to be dangerous to the public peace or safety."10              During treatment, 

the   defendant   may   not   be   released   on   furlough   or   on   parole.11   At   the   successful 

conclusion of this treatment, the defendant must serve the remainder of her sentence.12 

                This disposition for persons found guilty but mentally ill differs from the 

disposition for persons found not guilty by reason of insanity.                Defendants found not 

guilty by reason of insanity may be released immediately if they prove to the court by 

clear and convincing evidence that they are "not presently suffering from any mental 
illness that causes [them] to be dangerous to the public."13                Until that time, they are 

committed to the Commissioner of Health and Social Services for treatment for a period 

not to exceed the maximum term of imprisonment for the crime for which they were 

        10  AS 12.47.050(b). 

        11  AS 12.47.050(d). 

        12  AS 12.47.050(c). 

        13  AS 12.47.090(c). 

                                                  - 4 -                                           2330
 

----------------------- Page 5-----------------------

found not guilty by reason of insanity.14        They are entitled to yearly hearings where they 

have the opportunity to establish that they are "not presently suffering from any mental 
illness that causes [them] to be dangerous to the public."15           If they are still in custody at 

the end of the maximum term of imprisonment for the crime for which they were found 
not guilty by reason of insanity, the State can file a petition for civil commitment.16 

                Factual and procedural background 

                Judge Volland issued a written verdict in this case.  The following facts are 

from that verdict: 

                        Cynthia   Lord   is   gravely   disabled   by   mental   illness. 
                She suffers from schizoaffective disorder, depressive type. 
                This disorder is characterized by delusions, hallucinations, 
                disordered       thought     process     and    disturbed     emotional 
                experience.      Ms.   Lord   has   been   in   and   out   of   psychiatric 
                hospitals since age 17, and had been receiving mental health 
                services in Anchorage regularly since 1994.  Her condition is 
                not likely to improve although medication may reduce her 
                hallucinations.       Since    at  least  2003,   Ms.   Lord    has  had 
                delusions   about   a   force   she   calls   "Evil,"   delusions   about 
                being   watched   by   police   and   the   CIA,   and   about   Satanic 
                labels on food. Although suffering from delusions part of the 
                time, Ms. Lord has been able to secure employment in the 
                past, attend school at Wayland Baptist University, take care 
                of her children, and undertake daily life care responsibilities 
                such as shopping, cooking, housecleaning, etc. 

        14  AS 12.47.090(c)-(d). 

        15  AS 12.47.090(e). 

        16  AS 47.30.700. 

                                                  - 5 -                                          2330 

----------------------- Page 6-----------------------

        On March 16, 2004, the Anchorage Police Department 
received   a   911   call   from   Ms.   Lord   reporting   that   she   had 
"killed my three boys." APD had had experiences with Ms. 
Lord before, and the police response was initially skeptical 
about her report.   However, when officers entered her home, 
they found the bodies of Ms. Lord's three children:            Joseph, 
age 16, Michael, age 18, and Christopher, age 19.   Each boy 
had been killed by a single shot to the head. 

        Ms. Lord gave a voluntary statement to police that day. 
She    told   APD    Detectives     Mark    Huelskoetter     and   Glen 
Klinkhart   that   she   had   purchased   a   gun   in   October   2003, 
when she made the decision to kill her sons.           Ms. Lord said 
that on the day before [she killed her sons] she mixed some 
of her medication with Crystal Light so that her boys would 
drink it and get sleepy.       She set her alarm for early in the 
morning and woke at approximately 2:30 a.m.                It took her 
about an hour to work up the courage to kill Michael, her 
eighteen year old, during which time she drank alcohol.  She 
first worried that the gunshot would wake the other boys or 
her   neighbors.    She   then   covered   Michael's   body   with   a 
blanket and waited for her other sons to wake up. 

        Ms. Lord told police that when Joseph, the youngest, 
woke up she told him that Michael was sick and would not be 
going to school.      Joseph then left to attend classes at East 
High.     When Christopher woke up around 10:00 a.m., she 
waited   until   he   was   playing   video   games   in   front   of   the 
entertainment center.      She then shot him in the head, pulled 
his body into another room, and covered it with clothes so 
that    Joseph    would     not   see   it  when    he   came     home. 
Christopher had asked about Michael, but Ms. Lord told him 
that   Michael   was   sick   as   she   had   told   Joseph. She   then 
locked the door so "that when Joey came home ... I would be 
ready with the gun." When Joseph returned from school at 
around 2:30 p.m. and walked in the door, Ms. Lord waited 

                                 - 6 -                                          2330
 

----------------------- Page 7-----------------------

                until Joseph's face was turned away from her and shot him in 
                the back of the head.      She then contemplated killing herself 
                for a couple of hours and eventually called the police around 
                4:30 p.m.  Ms. Lord told detectives she expected punishment 
                for what she did.17 

                Several psychologists testified at the trial. Judge Volland summarized their 

testimony: 

                Dr.    [David]    Sperbeck    spent   approximately       eleven   hours 
                interviewing Ms. Lord, exclusive of psychological testing. 

                        Dr. Sperbeck testified that Ms. Lord had good recall of 
                events and described the shootings to him in greater detail 
                than to police.     He testified that Ms. Lord told him that she 
                couldn't tell what was real or not and that she didn't want her 
                children to grow up in a world of deception and lies.               Ms. 
                Lord   told   Dr.   Sperbeck   that   she   knew   the   boys   were   her 
                children     but  that  they   acted   like  robots.    Dr.   Sperbeck 
                testified that, despite the fact that Ms. Lord's actions were 
                prompted by her hallucinations, she clearly knew that she 
                was killing her children. 

                 He testified that his opinion was that "Lord understood the nature and 

quality of her conduct" in that she "under[stood] the consequences of [her] act[s]."  She 

"understood   that   placing   a   gun   to   the   head   of   her   children   would   kill   them." Dr. 

Sperbeck was confident from her repeated statements to him that she knew she was 

killing her boys." Judge Volland found that Dr. Lawrence Maile testified similarly to Dr. 

Sperbeck: 

                Based on Ms. Lord's systematic planning to kill her sons, her 
                ability to identify her sons, distinguish them as human beings, 
                and describe the consequences of her direct actions on her 

        17  (Footnotes omitted). 

                                                  - 7 -                                          2330 

----------------------- Page 8-----------------------

                sons, Dr. Maile expressed the professional opinion that there 
                [were] no impediments to Ms. Lord being found criminally 
                responsible for the charges she faces. 

                Dr. Bruce Gage testified for the defense.          Judge Volland summarized his 

testimony as follows: 

                Dr. Gage concluded that Ms. Lord did "understand that she 
                was killing her boys so, to that extent, she understood the 
                nature of her act."      However, Dr. Gage was of the opinion 
                that   this   did   not   take   into   account   Ms.   Lord's   reason   for 
                killing her children, i.e., to save them.       Dr. Gage was of the 
                opinion   that   if   this   motivation   and   context   for   her   act   is 
                considered,   Ms.   Lord      did   not   understand   the   nature   and 
                quality of her conduct.        Dr. Gage   opined that if Ms. Lord 
                believed she was saving her children, she did not appreciate 
                the quality of her act because she did not appreciate its true 
                consequences. 

                Cynthia Lord testified at the trial. Judge Volland summarized her testimony 

as follows: 

                During her testimony, [Ms. Lord] spoke with the same flat 
                affect that was characteristic of her interview with police, and 
                apparently      characteristic    of  her  discussions     with   mental 
                health professionals for the last decade.          She described her 
                delusions     at  length.   Ms.    Lord    retold  the   killing  of  her 
                children     with   the  same    detail  she   gave    to  police.    On 
                cross-examination, Ms. Lord admitted that she knew she was 
                pointing a gun at Michael and that when she shot the gun it 
                would kill him.      She stated that had her daughter been in the 
                home at the time, she would have killed her also "because 
                she's one of the siblings."      Ms. Lord testified that she knew 
                Michael was dead after she shot him.  She also admitted that 
                after killing Joseph, she thought: "Oh my god, I killed my 
                son."        Regarding        Christopher,       she     admitted      on 

                                                  - 8 -                                          2330
 

----------------------- Page 9-----------------------

                cross-examination that "I got the gun and I shot him in the 
                head" and that she had told [another examining doctor] that 
                she shot him in the back of the head because she did not want 
                the last thing he saw to be his mother shooting him.           As to 
                Joseph, she said "I shot him."     She acknowledged that when 
                she shot her boys, she intended to pull the trigger and knew 
                that a bullet would go into their heads and they would die. 
                She admitted they were her boys and that they were human. 
                She   said   she  thought   about   killing  herself   "because    she 
                couldn't live without them."18 

                Under AS 12.47.020(b), a defendant is not guilty by reason of insanity if, 

"as a result of mental disease or defect, there is a reasonable doubt as to the existence of 

a culpable mental state that is an element of the crime ... ." In reaching his verdict, Judge 

Volland     first   addressed  this  issue,   concluding   that   the  evidence  presented    at   trial 

established that Cynthia Lord, in spite of her mental disease or defect, had the mens rea 

for murder in the first degree. 

                In order for the State to establish the mens rea for murder in the first degree, 

the State had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Lord intended to cause the death 

of Michael, Joseph, and Christopher.        Alaska law states that a person acts intentionally 

"when the person's conscious objective is to cause that result; when intentionally causing 

a particular result is an element of an offense, that intent need not be the person's only 
objective."19 

                In his findings, Judge Volland found that "the evidence is overwhelming 

that Ms. Lord engaged in a deliberate, conscious, and detailed plan to kill her three sons." 

        18  (Footnotes omitted). 

        19  AS 11.81.900(a)(1). 

                                                - 9 -                                        2330 

----------------------- Page 10-----------------------

He then set out in detail Lord's meticulous planning that led to the murders.  He referred 

to the testimony of the psychologists who testified at trial: 

                 According to Dr. Sperbeck and Dr. Maile, Ms. Lord knew her 
                 sons were her sons   at the time of the shootings. Even Dr. 
                 Gage   stated   in   his   written   report   that   Lord   knew   she   was 
                 killing her sons.   Dr. Gage also acknowledged that Ms. Lord 
                 had to have the intent to kill her sons to also have the intent 
                 to save them. 

                 Having established that, in spite of her mental disease or defect, Lord had 

the   mens   rea   to   commit   murder   in   the   first   degree,   Judge   Volland   next   turned   to 

AS 12.47.010(a), which provides for an affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of 

insanity when the defendant establishes by a preponderance of the evidence that "when 

the defendant engaged in the criminal conduct, the defendant was unable, as a result of 

mental disease or defect, to appreciate the nature and quality of that conduct." 
                 Judge Volland first discussed State v. Patterson,20 in which the Alaska 

Supreme Court held that the legislative history of the 1982 revision of the Alaska statutes 

modifying the defense of insanity showed that the legislature intended to restrict the 

insanity   defense   so   that   it   was   no   longer   sufficient   for   the   defendant   to   prove   that, 

because of mental disease or defect, she was unable to either appreciate the wrongfulness 
of her conduct or conform her conduct to the requirements of the law.21 

                 The    supreme     court   examined      the  meaning      of   AS  12.47.010(a)      -    in 

particular, the meaning of "unable, as a result of mental disease or defect, to appreciate 

        20   740 P.2d 944 (Alaska 1987). 

        21  Id. at 949. 

                                                   -  10 -                                           2330 

----------------------- Page 11-----------------------

the nature and quality of [that] conduct."22         The legislative history contains two examples 

of   defendants   who   are   unable   to   appreciate   the   nature   and   quality   of   their   acts:   a 

defendant who is "unable to realize that he is shooting someone with a gun when he pulls 

the trigger on what he believes to be a water pistol, or a murder defendant who believes 
he is attacking the ghost of [his] mother rather than a living human being."23                  According 

to the House Judiciary Committee report, the defense of insanity would not apply "to a 

defendant   who   contends   that   he   was   instructed   to   kill   by   a   hallucination,   since   the 

defendant would still realize the nature and quality of his act, even though he thought it 
might be justified by a supernatural being."24 

                 Turning to the facts of this case, Judge Volland concluded: 

                 [T]o appreciate the nature and quality of murder means that 
                 the defendant must have understood the act that he or she 
                 engages in will cause the death of another person.  Thus, for 
                 Ms.   Lord   to   prevail   on   the   defense   of   insanity   under   AS 
                 12.47.010(a),   she   must   show,   by   a   preponderance   of   the 
                 evidence,   that   she   was   unable,   as   a   result   of   her   mental 
                 illness, to recognize that pointing a gun at the head of her 
                 sons and pulling the trigger, knowing they were her sons, 
                 would kill them. 

                         The      court     rejects    Dr.    Gage's      reasoning      that 
                 understanding the "quality" of an act requires inquiry into the 
                 context   of   the   act   and   the   defendant's   motivation.    In   the 
                 court's view this invites an inquiry into wrongfulness.               This 
                 is especially true in Ms. Lord's case.   Ms. Lord's motivation 
                 to save her children is precisely why she did not consider the 

        22   Id. at 946-49. 

        23   Id. at 946 n.8. 

        24   Id. 

                                                   - 11 -                                             2330 

----------------------- Page 12-----------------------

                act   to   be   wrongful. Even   Dr.   Gage   admitted   that   in   Ms. 
                Lord's case, her motivation and belief that her act was not 
                wrong "correspond." 

                Judge Volland summarized why he concluded that Lord did not establish 

that she failed to appreciate the nature and quality of her conduct: 

                There is much evidence that Ms. Lord appreciated that she 
                was killing her children.   She stated the same to Dr. Sperbeck 
                and Dr. Maile and admitted in her own testimony that after 
                killing Michael, she recognized that she had just shot one of 
                her children.    Ms. Lord had to work up the courage to shoot 
                Michael.  She covered her children after she shot them so she 
                would not see them.        She shot her sons in the back of the 
                head or while they were sleeping so they would not see their 
                mother shoot them.       She shot each boy in a way that would 
                cause instant death and the least pain. [The court finds that 
                these    actions   are  not  consistent    with   a  mother   shooting 
                someone she believes are non-human clones or robots.  The 
                evidence at trial that Ms. Lord did not believe her boys were 
                her boys was equivocal at best.         The court does not find that 
                Ms. Lord's statement to Dr. Sperbeck that "I was 80% sure 
                I'd never see them again on this earth" evidenced that she did 
                not believe she was killing them.  Ms. Lord's admissions on 
                cross-examination convinced the court that she knew she was 
                killing her boys.]     Because of this, the court concludes that 
                the defense has not established by a preponderance of the 
                evidence that Ms. Lord failed to appreciate the nature and 
                quality of her conduct as a result of her mental disease.25 

                Judge Volland concluded, by a preponderance of the evidence, that Lord 

was guilty but mentally ill. He concluded that the "evidence is undisputed that Ms. Lord 

suffers from a severe, disabling mental illness," and that she "killed her children to save 

        25  Footnote incorporated as bracketed text. 

                                                -  12 -                                         2330 

----------------------- Page 13-----------------------

them from 'Evil' and to send them to heaven.  She believed that she was doing the right 

thing and would do it over again; she testified to this belief at trial.           The court finds her 

belief genuine and firmly held." 

                 Why we uphold Judge Volland's verdict that Lord was guilty but 
                mentally ill 

                Lord argues that Judge Volland interpreted the Alaska statutes setting out 

the defense of insanity too narrowly.           She argues that, in arriving at his verdict, Judge 

Volland only relied on AS 12.47.020, the diminished capacity statute, which provides 

for the insanity defense where the court finds that, "as a result of mental disease or 

defect, there is a reasonable doubt as to the existence of a culpable mental state that is an 

element of the crime." 

                Lord      argues     that   the   defense     of   insanity     is  broader,     because 

AS 12.47.010(a) provides for the affirmative defense of not guilty by reason of insanity 

when the defendant engaged in criminal conduct but "was unable, as a result of mental 

disease or defect, to appreciate the nature and quality of that conduct." 

                In rejecting Lord's defense that she was not guilty by reason of insanity, 

Judge Volland first found that, in spite of the fact that the "evidence [was] undisputed 

that Ms. Lord suffers from a severe, disabling mental illness," she formed the culpable 

mental   state   to   commit   murder   in   the   first   degree. He   found   that   "the   evidence   is 

overwhelming that Ms. Lord engaged in a deliberate, conscious, and detailed plan to kill 

her three sons." 

                Lord agrees that this finding was sufficient for Judge Volland to reject a 

"diminished capacity" defense under AS 12.47.020.  But she asserts that Judge Volland 

erred in using this same finding to reject her defense of not guilty by reason of insanity 

                                                 -  13 -                                          2330
 

----------------------- Page 14-----------------------

under AS 12.47.010.  Lord argues that if the legislature intended to restrict the insanity 

defense to only an inquiry about whether a defendant could form the mens rea to commit 

the crime, then AS 12.47.010 would be superfluous.                  She contends that the legislative 

history of the statute does not indicate that the legislature intended to "eliminate the 

application of an independent insanity defense to the vast majority of crimes," and that 

a narrow interpretation of AS 12.47.010 would eliminate the insanity defense for crimes 

with a mens rea requirement of intent, knowledge, or recklessness.                    Lord asserts that a 

narrow interpretation of AS 12.47.010 in conjunction with the more severe sentencing 

provisions of the guilty but mentally ill statutes would violate Lord's federal and state 

guarantees to due process and to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. 

                 Lord argues, for instance, that the evidence presented at trial showed that 

she    did   not   appreciate     the  nature    and   quality    of  her   acts   because     she   had   no 

understanding of the meaning of death.   But Judge Volland rejected the factual basis for 

this   argument.      He    concluded     that   Lord   knew    that   she  was    killing  her   boys   and 

appreciated the nature of death based upon her testimony that she "was 80% sure I would 

never see them again on this earth." 

                 It appears to us that, in explaining his verdict, Judge Volland carefully 

considered   the   testimony   of   the   psychologists   as   well   as   Lord's   hallucinations   and 

delusions in reaching his verdict.          He concluded that, in spite of these mental defects, 

Lord understood the nature and quality of her acts.  He carefully set out her meticulous 

planning and reasoning as she planned and then carried out the killing of her sons.  He 

concluded   that   she   understood   what   she   was   doing   and   understood   the   concept   of 

death   -   that   by   killing   her   sons,   she   knew   with   substantial   certainty   that   she   was 

removing them from this earth and that she would never see them alive again.                          Judge 

Volland found that, because of her mental illness, Lord sincerely believed that she was 

                                                   -  14 -                                           2330
 

----------------------- Page 15-----------------------

doing the right thing by killing her sons "to save them from 'Evil' and send them to 

heaven."   He concluded that, although Lord knew what she was doing, because of her 

mental    disease   or  defect,  she  "lacked   the  substantial   capacity   to  appreciate   the 

wrongfulness of her conduct."       He reasoned that, given these conclusions, Lord was 

guilty but mentally ill. 

                Judge Volland found that Lord appreciated the nature and quality of her 

acts but lacked the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct.  We conclude 

that Judge Volland's findings are supported by the evidence and that Judge Volland's 

findings support the verdict that Lord was guilty but mentally ill. 

               Why we reject Lord's constitutional attacks 

               Lord's initial constitutional attack is based upon her argument about the 

interpretation of AS 12.47.010, which provides that defendants are not guilty by reason 

of insanity if they can show that they were "unable, as a result of a mental disease or 

defect, to appreciate the nature and quality of [their] conduct."       Lord argues that Judge 

Volland interpreted AS 12.47.010 to not provide a broader defense of not guilty by 

reason of insanity than is provided in the "diminished capacity" statute, AS 12.47.020. 

But Judge Volland carefully considered whether Lord appreciated the nature and quality 

of her conduct.   He concluded that she did.      And we have upheld those findings. 

               Lord raises a more fundamental attack on the statutes setting out the defense 

of not guilty by reason of insanity. Lord argues that it violates both the United States and 

Alaska constitutions to impose criminal responsibility in cases where a defendant does 

not have the capacity to appreciate the wrongfulness of her conduct. 

               It seems clear that if the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the 

defendant possessed the mens rea required under the criminal statute, the United States 

                                             -  15 -                                      2330
 

----------------------- Page 16-----------------------

Constitution does not require any further inquiry into the defendant's mental state to 
support a conviction.26 

                Lord argues that we should interpret the Alaska Constitution more broadly 
than the United States Supreme Court has interpreted the federal Constitution.27              But we 

have previously rejected constitutional attacks on the Alaska statutes setting out the 
defense of not guilty by reason of insanity.  In Hart v. State,28 the defendant argued that 

holding someone criminally responsible who lacked the capacity to conform her conduct 

to the requirements of the law violated the due process, cruel and unusual punishment, 
and   equal   protection   clauses   of   the   United   States   and   Alaska   Constitutions.29 We 

observed that the Alaska statutes required the State "to prove beyond a reasonable doubt 

        26  See, e.g., Powell v. Texas, 392 U.S. 514, 535-36 (1968) (refusing to define an 

insanity defense in constitutional terms and stating that "The doctrines of actus reus, mens 
rea, insanity, mistake, justification, and duress have historically provided the tools for a 
constantly shifting adjustment of the tension between the evolving aims of the criminal law 
and changing religious, moral, philosophical, and medical views of the nature of man.  This 
process of adjustment has always been thought to be the province of the States.");           see also 
Clark v. Arizona, 548 U.S. 735, 752-53 (2006); Walker v. Endell, 850 F.2d 470, 473 (9th Cir. 
1987) (rejecting the argument that the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution 
requires that "criminal intent" be an element of kidnapping and robbery); Davis v. McCotter, 
766    F.2d   203,   204   (5th  Cir.  1985)    (rejecting  argument     that  "voluntariness"    is  a 
constitutionally required element of robbery); United States v. Mitchell, 725 F.2d 832, 835 
(2d Cir. 1983) (refusing to "constitutionaliz[e] particular formula for disproving the defense 
of duress"). 

        27  Myers v. Alaska Psychiatric Institute, 138 P.3d 238, 245 (Alaska 2006) (citing 

Anchorage Police Dep't Employees Ass'n v. Municipality of Anchorage , 24 P.3d 547, 550 
(Alaska 2001), & Breese v. Smith, 501 P.2d 159, 170 (Alaska 1972) (recognizing that the 
Alaska Constitution's guarantees of privacy and individual liberty are "broader in scope" 
than those in the Federal Constitution)). 

        28  702 P.2d 651 (Alaska App. 1985). 

        29  Id. at 653. 

                                                -  16 -                                       2330
 

----------------------- Page 17-----------------------

that the defendant engaged in conscious voluntary acts ... and possessed the requisite 
mens     rea   for  the   offense."30     We     ultimately    concluded     that  "the   State   may 

constitutionally eliminate a separate insanity defense based on 'irresistible impulse' or 
inability to conform one's conduct to the requirements of the law."31            We stated that the 

"determination of the point at which a person's mental condition justifies exculpation 
is ... an ethical question for legislators and juries, not courts."32          We also upheld the 

statutes establishing the verdict of not guilty but mentally ill against constitutional attack 
in Barrett v. State.33   We adhere to those decisions. 

                Judge   Volland   required   the   State   to   prove   beyond   a   reasonable 
                doubt that Lord possessed the mens rea for first-degree murder 

                Lord argues that Judge Volland impermissibly shifted the burden of proving 

the mens rea of first-degree murder - i.e., the intent to cause death - on to her.  But the 

record clearly shows that in reaching his verdict, Judge Volland first considered the issue 

of whether there was a reasonable doubt about whether Lord had the mens rea to commit 

murder in the first degree. Judge Volland carefully examined the evidence in concluding 

that Lord had the mens rea to commit murder in the first degree. He concluded that the 

State had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Lord intended to cause the death of 

        30  Id. at 655-56 (footnotes omitted).
 

        31  Id. at 659 (footnote omitted).
 

        32  Id. (citations omitted); see also Wayne R. LaFave, Substantive Criminal Law, 
 

7.1(d) at 521-23 (2d ed. 2003) (collecting arguments in favor of and opposed to abolishing 
the insanity defense). 

        33  772 P.2d 559, 573 (Alaska App. 1989). 

                                                -  17 -                                       2330
 

----------------------- Page 18-----------------------

Michael, Joseph, and Christopher Lord. The record is therefore clear that Judge Volland 

correctly applied the standard of proof. 

              Conclusion 

              The judgment of the superior court is AFFIRMED. 

                                           -  18 -                                    2330
 
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