It was recently announced that the second young perpetrator in the “Slender Man” case, Morgan Geyser, is going to accept a plea deal rather than go to trial. This announcement comes just a month after the other perpetrator, Annissa Weier, pleaded guilty to a lesser charge. Both defendants and the victim were just 12 when the crime occurred. Geyser and Weier lured Payton Leutner into the woods with the intention of harming her to please the fictional “Slender Man.” According to the Washington Post, “Geyser . . . allegedly stabbed Leutner 19 times as Weier urged her on.” Under the plea deal, Geyser will plead guilty to the crime and will be sent “indefinitely to a state mental hospital.”
Though Weier did plead guilty for her role in the crime, in September, she still had a trial to determine if she was “mentally ill at the time of the attack.”. After a week-long trial, the jury decided that she was. According to the Chicago Tribune, “10 of 12 jurors –the minimum required by law –voted Weier was mentally ill.” In addition, the same number of jurors voted she was not “criminally responsible for her actions.” Under the terms of her plea, if the jury determined she was mentally ill, she will be sent to a mental hospital for at least three years.
The insanity defense has been around centuries. When pleading this defense, a defendant is stating that while he or she committed the crime, the defendant is not legally responsible for his or her actions because, at the time the defendant committed the act, the defendant was suffering from a mental illness.
The vast majority of the times that this defense is used, the cases do not go to trial. According to the New York Times Magazine, “some 90 percent of N.G.R.I. verdicts are plea deals.” (This is keeping in line with criminal cases, in general, where about 97% of federal cases end in plea bargain as do around 94% of state cases.) If a defendant chooses to go to trial instead, the case is decided by the trier of fact, either a judge or a jury. However, the insanity defense is not often successful at trial. According to the Times Magazine, “Today, only an estimated one-120th of 1 percent of contested felony cases end in a successful N.G.R.I. defense — that is, the prosecutor disputes the insanity defense, the case goes to trial and the jury finds the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity.”
Another issue that can arise with the insanity defense is that the “legal standards for ‘insanity' vary among states.” Some states don't have the insanity defense at all. Some states define insanity as a defendant having the “inability to act in accordance with the law.” However, most states nowadays define it as “a defendant's inability to know the crime was wrong.”
When a defendant is successful in using this defense, the result in most states is that the defendant is committed to a psychiatric facility for a period of time. How long this period of time is will depend on a number of circumstances, but the Times points out that “N.G.R.I. patients can wind up with longer, not shorter, periods of incarceration, as they are pulled into a mental-health system that can be harder to leave than prison.”
It remains to be seen just how long Weier and Geyser end up spending in the mental hospital. Hopefully, the teens will get the help they need and will be able to become productive members of society later in life.