Seven-Personality Insanity Defense Upheld
CLEARWATER, Fla. (AP) _ A woman who contends she didn’t commit two bank holdups because another one of her seven personalities was in control will be allowed to present her unusual insanity defense, a judge ruled.
Juanita Maxwell claims she had no way to prevent the 1988 robberies because an alternate personality named ″Wanda″ pulled them off, and that she should be acquitted by reason of insanity.
Mrs. Maxwell, 34, used a similar defense to win acquittal in a 1979 murder case.
Circuit Judge R. Grable Stoutamire’s ruling Friday came after pretrial arguments in April in which prosecutors blasted the defense. The ruling sets the stage for a trial scheduled to begin July 31.
Prosecutors had argued that it didn’t matter whether Mrs. Maxwell knew of the robberies. They said what did matter was whether Wanda knew right from wrong when she held up two First Florida bank branches.
Florida’s insanity standard applies only to defendants whose mental problems cloud their ability to tell right from wrong. If Wanda did know right from wrong, prosecutors reasoned, Mrs. Maxwell should not be allowed to present the insanity defense at her trial.
Jurors will have to decide where criminal accountablity lies when seven distinct personalities claim one body. Experts will be called to explain the forces that cause a personality to fracture.
In Mrs. Maxwell’s case, her subconscious created numerous personalities in response to an abusive childhood, her therapists have said. The personalities range from the flirtatious and sophisticated Jennifer to the protective but sometimes violent Wanda.
Mrs. Maxwell claims Wanda turned to bank robbery so she could help support Mrs. Maxwell’s three children in Ohio.
It was Wanda who bludgeoned a 73-year-old Fort Myers woman to death during a squabble in 1979 over a ballpoint pen.
In that case, a judge acquitted Mrs. Maxwell of murder by reason of insanity, and sent her to a state psychiatric hospital for treatment.
Mrs. Maxwell was released in 1987 after state officials decided she was mentally competent.