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State v. Worlock

Decided: February 22, 1990.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
CARL E. WORLOCK, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



For affirmance -- Chief Justice Wilentz and Justices Clifford, Handler, Pollock, O'Hern, Garibaldi and Stein. Opposed -- None. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Pollock, J.

Pollock

The primary issue in this case concerns the adequacy of the jury charge on the defense of insanity, which the Appellate Division sustained in an unreported opinion. We granted certification, 113 N.J. 343 (1988), and likewise find the charge to be sufficient. Finding no merit in defendant's other contentions, we affirm his convictions for murder and for possession of a weapon for an unlawful purpose.

I

The following summary is substantially consistent with defendant's version of the facts. Defendant, Carlyle Worlock, and his two victims, Guy Abrahamsen and Shawn Marchyshyn, had an unstable friendship in which Abrahamsen would periodically subject defendant to ridicule and physical abuse. On the night before the killing, the three young men went from Jackson Township to Seaside Heights, where, at defendant's expense, they spent the night smoking marijuana, drinking beer, and "partying" with two women "picked up" by Abrahamsen and Marchyshyn. After returning to Marchyshyn's apartment the following morning, Abrahamsen asked defendant for his pants. The ostensible reason for the request was that defendant's pants were dirty and Abrahamsen wanted to launder them. Apparently, however, the request was a ruse to obtain defendant's wallet, which contained, among other things, approximately $130 and a photograph of defendant dressed in a sadomasochistic costume at a gay parade in Hollywood. Defendant viewed the theft of his wallet as an act of betrayal, and feared that Abrahamsen could "destroy" him by disclosing the photograph.

"Burning and angry," defendant retrieved a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle that he had hidden in a nearby wooded area because of a premonition that Abrahamsen "would do something like this." He test-fired the rifle, from which the stock was missing, and began "fuming about what had been done to

him." While brooding, he decided to "let this guy [Abrahamsen] have it." Defendant proceeded to the vicinity of Marchyshyn's apartment, where he waited for the victims.

Shortly thereafter, defendant saw Abrahamsen and Marchyshyn exit from a taxi cab. He knew that neither of them had any money, so the sight of the cab confirmed the suspicion that Abrahamsen had taken his money. According to a defense psychiatrist, defendant was "devastated" by the realization that Abrahamsen had stolen his wallet. Concealing the rifle in a cloth, defendant moved to the far side of the building and "[waited] in ambush." As they approached, he moved to within fifteen feet of them and quickly fired twelve rounds.

As defendant testified, "I aimed at Guy, and I * * * hit Shawn." The first bullet struck Marchyshyn in the chest and killed him. Three other bullets hit Abrahamsen, one in each arm and one in the back. Defendant fired a second burst of bullets, hitting Abrahamsen with six more shots as he opened the screen door of a ground-floor apartment. According to the occupants of the apartment, Abrahamsen stumbled into the family room and collapsed on the floor.

Defendant stated that he then tried to "divorce [himself] from the act," ran into the woods, changed his clothes, and went to a pizza parlor. While eating pizza, he saw several police officers "scouting" around, and he asked "what's happening?". Defendant testified that he then walked to the home of Abrahamsen's girlfriend, and told her that he had shot Abrahamsen. According to her, however, defendant said only that Abrahamsen had been shot. She left with two of her friends, one of whom called the police.

Defendant next went to his parents' house. They told him that the police were looking for him. On leaving the house, defendant noticed a police car parked nearby, and decided to "give himself in." After defendant identified himself, Officer Barry Wohl handcuffed him, read him his Miranda rights, and

told him that he was wanted "as a material witness involving an investigation."

At police headquarters, defendant again received Miranda warnings, signed a consent-to-questioning form, and confessed to shooting Abrahamsen and Marchyshyn. Defendant explained, however, that the shooting of Marchyshyn was an accident, stating that "Shawn got in the way."

On September 21, 1983, an Ocean County Grand Jury indicted defendant for the capital murder of Abrahamsen and Marchyshyn, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:11-3, and for the unlawful possession of a weapon, in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:39-4a.

At trial, the principal issue was whether defendant was legally insane when he shot Abrahamsen and Marchyshyn.

II

A

The test for criminal insanity is set forth in N.J.S.A. 2C:4-1, which provides:

A person is not criminally responsible for conduct if at the time of such conduct he was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did know it, that he did not know what he was doing was wrong. Insanity is an affirmative defense which must be proved by a preponderance of the evidence.

Under the statute, as at common law, see State v. Cordasco, 2 N.J. 189, 196 (1949) (quoting State v. Molnar, 133 N.J.L. 327 (E. & A.1945)), a defendant is presumed sane and bears the burden of proving insanity as an affirmative defense. Underlying that presumption is the belief that people are capable of choosing between right and wrong. State v. Sikora, 44 N.J. 453, 470 (1965). A defendant who lacks that capacity is excused from criminal responsibility, but is subject to institutionalization as long as he is a danger to himself or others. N.J.S.A. 2C:4-8.

The insanity defense is consistent with the fundamental purpose of the criminal law as a means of protecting public safety. For a defendant who can choose between right and wrong,

criminal sanctions serve as punishment for him or her and as a deterrent to others. If the defendant cannot understand the wrongfulness of his or her conduct, he or she will not understand the reason for the punishment, and that punishment will not serve as a deterrent to anyone. From that perspective, an insane defendant is neither responsible nor blameworthy. See Holloway v. United States, 148 F.2d 665, 666-67 (D.C.Cir.1945), cert. denied, 334 U.S. 852, 68 S. Ct. 1507, 92 L. Ed. 1774 (1948); A. Goldstein, The Insanity Defense 8-11 (1967) (Goldstein); American Psychiatric Association Statement on the Insanity Defense, 140 Am.J.Psychiatry 681, 683 (1983) (APA Statement). Consequently, punishment for such a defendant would be both unjust and futile. II The New Jersey Penal Code: Final Report of the New Jersey Criminal Law Revision Commission § 2C:4-1 commentary at 96 (1971) (quoting Model Penal Code (Tent.Draft No. 4 at 156) (1955)). The insanity defense, therefore, serves to distinguish those who should be punished from those who lack sufficient capacity to merit punishment. In brief, the insanity defense separates "the sick from the bad." State v. Maik, 60 N.J. 203, 213 (1972), overruled in part on other grounds, State v. Krol, 68 N.J. 236 (1975); Sikora, supra, 44 N.J. at 475; Goldstein, supra, at 9.

As a legal standard for determining criminal responsibility, the insanity defense draws on principles of moral blameworthiness. To this extent, the defense ultimately depends on societal values. See Leland v. Oregon, 343 U.S. 790, 801, 72 S. Ct. 1002, 1008, 96 L. Ed. 1302, 1310 (1952); Sauer v. United States, 241 F.2d 640, 648-49 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 354 U.S. 940, 77 S. Ct. 1405, 1 L. Ed. 2d 1539 (1957); Goldstein, supra, at 89.

The insanity test codified in N.J.S.A. 2C:4-1 traces its origins to the rules set forth in M'Naghten's Case, 8 Eng.Rep. 718 (H.L.1843). There Daniel M'Naghten shot and killed Edward Drummond, secretary to Robert Peel, the Prime Minister of England. M'Naghten was charged with murder, and the jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. In responding to the ensuing public outcry, the House of Lords posed to its

Law Lords five abstract questions concerning the defense of insanity. In a combined answer to the second and third questions, Chief Justice Tindal stated that

to establish a defence on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was labouring under such a defect of reason, from disease of the mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or, if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.

[ Id. at 722.]

Directed at the defendant's ability to "know," the M'Naghten test is essentially one of cognitive impairment. Sometimes described as the "right and wrong" test, its purpose is to determine whether the defendant had sufficient mental capacity to understand what he was doing when he committed the crime. See APA Statement, supra, at 682; Goldstein, supra, at 9.

With the advance of modern psychiatry, some critics, viewing the M'Naghten Rule as too restrictive, have suggested alternative tests of legal insanity. One alternative, sometimes described as the New Hampshire or Durham test, would excuse the defendant for an act that was a "product of mental disease." State v. Jones, 50 N.H. 369 (1871). Originally promulgated by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in the last century, the test attracted attention in the 1950s and 1960s when it was adopted by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. See Durham v. United States, 214 F.2d 862 (D.C.Cir.1954), overruled, United States v. Brawner, 471 F.2d 969 (D.C.Cir.1972). Another alternative, the "irresistible impulse" test, focuses on volitional, rather than cognitive, impairment. It attempts to determine whether a defendant, due to mental illness, lacked the ability to control his criminal impulses. See Smith v. United States, 36 F.2d 548 (D.C.Cir.1929). Yet another proposal argues that insanity should not relate to guilt, but to the disposition of the offender after conviction. See State v. Lucas, 30 N.J. 37, 82 (1959) (Weintraub, C.J., concurring); Weintraub, Criminal Responsibility: Psychiatry Alone Cannot Determine It, 49 A.B.A.J. 1075 (1963).

The most successful alternative, one that combines elements of the M'Naghten and irresistible-impulse tests, is contained in section 4.01 of the Model Penal Code and Commentaries (1985) (Model Penal Code). That section provides:

A person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality [wrongfulness] of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of law.

By 1980, the Model Penal Code test had been accepted in more than half the states and in most federal circuits. See Model Penal Code and Commentaries § 4.01 at 175-76.

Notwithstanding those alternative formulations, New Jersey has consistently followed the M'Naghten Rule from its inception. See State v. Spencer, 21 N.J.L. 196, 204 (Oyer and Terminer 1846). The Rule has endured despite efforts to introduce the Durham test, Maik, supra, 60 N.J. at 212-13, and the irresistible-impulse test, Cordasco, 2 N.J. at 196; Mackin v. State, 59 N.J.L. 495, 496-97 (E. & A. 1896).

The M'Naghten Rule likewise survived a challenge from the New Jersey Criminal Law Revision Commission (New Jersey Commission) in the adoption of the current Penal Code. Originally, the New Jersey Commission recommended adopting the Model Penal Code test. See I The New Jersey Penal Code: Final Report of the New Jersey Criminal Law Revision Commission § 2C:4-1 (1971). Accepting the position of the Department of Law and Public Safety, Division of Criminal Justice, Appellate Section, Report on the Proposed Penal Code (1972) (unpublished), however, the Legislature retained the M'Naghten Rule.

More recently, the M'Naghten Rule has attracted other supporters. For example, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that

[many] psychiatrists * * * believe that psychiatric information relevant to determining whether a defendant understood the nature of his act, and whether he appreciated its wrongfulness, is more reliable and has a stronger scientific basis than, for example, does psychiatric information relevant to whether a defendant was able to control his behavior.

[ APA Statement, supra, at 685.]

One leading authority has proposed a more modern formulation, which is "drawn from the Model Penal Code, [and] uses clinically meaningful terms to ask the same question posed by the House of Lords in M'Naghten." Bonnie, The Moral Basis of the Insanity Defense, 69 A.B.A.J. 194, 197 (1983) (Bonnie). Professor Bonnie proposes that a person charged with a criminal offense shall be found not guilty by reason of insanity on proof that as a result of mental disease, he or she "was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness" of his or her conduct at the time of the offense. Id. at 197. In offering that proposal, Professor Bonnie adopted the Model Penal Code suggestion of substituting "appreciate" for "know." Professor Bonnie's proposal formed the basis for "[the] standard of mental nonresponsibility [insanity]" approved by the American Bar Association. ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health Standards, Standard 7-6.1 at 335 n. 29 (1989). The American Bar Association Standard states that "[a] person is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time of such conduct, and as a result of mental disease or defect, that person was unable to appreciate the wrongfulness of such conduct."

A similar test, also substituting "appreciate" for "know," is incorporated in the Insanity Defense Reform Act of 1984 (codified at 18 U.S.C. § 17):

(a) Affirmative defense. It is an affirmative defense to a prosecution under any Federal statute that, at the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts. Mental disease or defect does not otherwise constitute a defense.

The difference between "know" and "appreciate" may be more apparent than real, but the latter word is more in tune with current psychiatric thinking. "Appreciate" introduces an "affective, more emotional, more personalized approach for evaluating the nature of a defendant's knowledge or understanding." APA Statement, supra, at 682; ABA Criminal Justice Mental Health ...


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