Expert: Not guilty by insanity defense for Haskell will be difficult

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by Jeremy Desel / KHOU 11 News

khou.com

Posted on July 11, 2014 at 4:18 PM

HOUSTON – It is becoming clear that defense attorneys for capital murder suspect Ronald Haskell will likely be pursuing a not guilty by reason of insanity defense.

If there is anyone who knows what it is like to handle a high profile case with mental health at its core it is George Parnham.

“When I go to the cemetery, there are five headstones. All different dates of birth, but the same date of death. You know. But she was so, so sick,” Parnham recalls.

Parnahm successfully defended Andrea Yates, the Houston mother who drowned her five children.

He has been honored across the nation for his expertise when it comes to the use of the insanity defense and knows that the Haskill case is difficult.

“It personally hurts all of us emotionally I am certain. It is going to be an uphill battle there is no doubt about it,” he said.

In addition to the Andrea Yates case, Parnham says that he has actually pursued a not guilty by reason of insanity defense just eight or nine times. In addition to Yates, he has only been successful one other time.

Parnham has worked in the past with Haskell’s defense attorney Doug Durham and respects him, but, “If there is any indication or evidence of motive. That is going to be a huge hurdle for any defense lawyer to overcome.”

That said, there are other considerations Parnham says.

“An individual who is mentally ill can think about it, can plan it, can do rational acts,” Parnham said.

Evidence like alleged statements that he planned to come here and kill people which Haskell is alleged to have said, might actually be evidence for insanity says Parnham.

“Does a rational individual who plans to take someone’s life pronounce that activity before hand?” he questioned.

That will be for a Harris County jury to decide.

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