Jury Should Consider Defendant’s Mental Impairment in Deciding Whether False Statements Showed Consciousness of Guilt
August 2nd, 2016

In People v. McGehee (2016) 246 CA4th 1190 the defense argued that McGehee suffered from schizophrenic delusions involving demons and that he killed his mother during such an episode. The jury was instructed that if McGehee made any false or misleading statements related to the crime, that conduct may show consciousness of guilt. (CC 362.) The jury was also instructed that it could not use evidence of his mental illness for any purpose other than to decide if he possessed the required mental state for murder. (CC 3428.)

However, People v. Wiidanen (2011) 201 CA4th 526 held that the jury should have been allowed to consider the defendant’s voluntary intoxication when determining whether false statements he made were knowingly false and therefore evidence of consciousness of guilt. See Consciousness of Guilt: False Statements: Defense Theory of Intoxication

The same logic applies to evidence of mental illness. “Like intoxication, mental illness or impairment has obvious relevance to the question of ability to perceive or recall events.” (246 CA4th at 1204-05.) Thus, the jury should have been allowed to consider the mental state evidence for purposes of assessing consciousness of guilt.

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