October 21, 2014

Colorado Supreme Court: Proposed Expert Testimony of a Learning Disability Admissible with Notice and Court-Ordered Mental Examination; Not Required to Plead Insanity to Challenge whether Possessed Mens Rea for the Offense

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In Re People v. Wilburn on March 26, 2012.

Expert Testimony on Defendant’s Mental Condition—Learning Disability—Mistake of Fact Defense on “Knowingly” Element—Court-Ordered Mental Examination.

In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court held that CRS § 16-8-107(3)(b) allows a defendant to introduce expert testimony concerning a mental condition in the absence of an insanity plea, providing that the defendant gives adequate notice and agrees to undergo a court-ordered mental health examination pursuant to CRS § 16-8-106. Here, defendant Tyler Wilburn announced his intent to introduce expert testimony of a learning disability to challenge whether he “knowingly” violated his bail bond condition, a mistake-of-fact defense under CRS § 18-1-504(1)(a). Wilburn missed his court date after he allegedly wrote down the wrong date. The prosecution maintained that, to introduce expert testimony of his mental condition, Wilburn must plead not guilty by reason of insanity, a plea that requires a “commitment” to a state mental health facility. The trial court agreed and ordered Wilburn committed to a state facility for forty-five days to undergo a court-ordered mental examination. The Court issued a rule to show cause.

The Court reversed the trial court’s judgment and made the rule absolute. The Court held that Wilburn’s proposed expert testimony of a learning disability is admissible under the procedures of CRS § 16-8-107(3)(b), which requires notice and a court-ordered mental examination. Wilburn is not required to plead insanity to challenge whether he possessed the mens rea for the offense with expert testimony concerning his learning disability. Under CRS § 16-8-106, the trial court has discretion to consider the circumstances and the nature of Wilburn’s defense to set a reasonable time, place, and length for a court-ordered mental health examination.

Summary and full case available here.

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