Mom judged insane when children shot demands, gets new trial
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — A woman diagnosed as psychotic when she shot her two children could get a new trial after a North Carolina appeals court decided Tuesday that her lawyer shouldn’t have pushed an insanity defense against her wishes.
The state Court of Appeals ruled that Tina Stamey Payne was denied her constitutional right of legal assistance when her defense attorney asked the judge to declare her not guilty by reason of insanity.
The three-judge court panel ordered a new mental competency hearing to determine if the Gaston County woman can stand trial.
“If, or when, Defendant is found competent to stand trial, she shall be afforded all the constitutional rights of a competent defendant, including final decision-making authority over what plea to enter,” Chief Judge Linda McGee wrote for the unanimous panel.
The question of whether a competent defendant has the right to refuse to pursue an insanity defense hasn’t previously been addressed in North Carolina, McGee said.
In August 2013, Payne stood on the back porch of her home with her hands raised, believing she was talking to God, when she concluded the president and Indians were coming to kill her 15-year-old daughter, the Gaston Gazette reported in 2015.
Payne then pointed a .22-caliber pistol at the girl. She screamed for help from her 28-year-old brother, who wrestled the gun away from their mother, but not before the girl had been shot in the shoulder and her brother suffered a hand wound.
Payne then went outdoors with a knife, began cutting her wrists and “tried to get hit by a car,” the court said.
After several rounds of psychiatric examinations, Payne told the judge at a 2014 hearing she was at odds with her attorney. She said she wanted to plead not guilty because the shooting was an accident.
Payne told the judge during a hearing the following year that she wanted a jury trial but was being ignored. She was again involuntarily committed for treatment.
She took her case to the Court of Appeals after her attorney last year sought a pre-trial insanity ruling against her wishes and a lower-court judge agreed.
“Defendant had the same right to direct her counsel in fundamental matters, such as what plea to enter, as she had to forego counsel altogether and represent herself, even when Defendant’s choices were made against her counsel’s best judgment,” the appeals court said. “At a minimum, a defendant’s affirmative declaration that the defendant does not wish to move for a pretrial determination of NGRI (not guilty by reason of insanity) must be respected.”
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