Court Authorizes Lay Testimony of Defendant’s Behavior for Three Years Since His Return from Iraq to Support Insanity Defense

United States v. Goodman, 2011 U.S.App. LEXIS 1760 (10th Cir. Jan. 28, 2011)

In a case from Oklahoma, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the conviction of an Iraqi war veteran convicted of three armed robberies and an attempted armed robbery and ordered a new trail. Relying solely on the insanity defense, the defendant who suffered a mental breakdown on the battle field, argued and the 10th Circuit agreed, that the district court improperly limited lay testimony to observations of his behavior immediately before and after his eight-day robbery spree rather than permitting testimony about his erratic behavior for the three years since his return from Iraq. The Court found that the temporal limits imposed were improper because the evidence excluded was not too stale. The evidence was only at most three years old and part of a continuous pattern beginning with his post-combat psychiatric treatment. The Court also held that the trial court improperly precluded opinion testimony by lay witnesses under Federal Rule of Evidence 704(b). Rule 704(b) only bars experts from offering opinions about a criminal’s state of mind. Rule 704(a) permits lay opinion on the ultimate issue before the court.

Found in DMHL Volume 30 Issue 2