SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Following a jury’s verdict convicting Nelson Patino of murder, attempted murder and assault, his defense attorneys called out a lack of intersection between mental health and the criminal justice system. He’s set for sentencing in December.
In last week’s murder trial, attorneys for Patino attempted to argue he was not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect, a type of defense rarely used at trial. “It’s not used very often because the burden is so high, and I think that’s part of the problem,” said Michael McDermott, Patino’s attorney.
“The criminal justice system makes it difficult for people with mental health issues to be treated differently,” McDermott said. After the verdict, McDermott said that criminal justice does not intersect with mental health care.
Local attorney Paul DerOhannesian said that psychiatric problems can be a challenge to prove in court. “Whether it’s prior mental health history, records, but also how the individual behaves in the community at the time of the offense, before the offense, lay witness testimony, most individuals can’t successfully assert the defense based on just a psychiatric examination,” DerOhannesian said. “I think you need more to have faith in the opinion of the mental health expert.”
DerOhannesian said that a lack of understanding can create additional obstacles for the jury as they deliberate. In some cases, defendants who succeed in using that defense could serve more time in a mental health facility.
“Not knowing what happens to an individual, I think there’s a sense that somehow someone is getting away with something and that’s not necessarily correct,” DerOhannesian said. “The instruction the jury gets does not really do a good job explaining what the consequences are.”