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Man accused of violent crime may be mentally ill, attorneys say

A 24-year-old man is facing murder charges in connection with the alleged strangling death of a 55-year-old victim. The older man, a resident of Wisconsin's nearby neighbor of Minnesota, was discovered unresponsive in a roadway in Minnesota on Jan. 13, according to official reports. The victim was reportedly dating the defendant's mother. The 24-year-old has made statements indicating that he may have been responsible for the violent crime. He reportedly told his mother that the victim was getting in the way of their relationship, and he said he planned to kill the man. The defendant could face up to four decades' prison time in connection with the homicide charges.

Authorities report that the victim perished because he was manually strangled. They argue that the defendant may have forced his way into the victim's bedroom while the two were alone in the house; the defendant's mother had stepped out to run errands. The 55-year-old man was allegedly so afraid of the defendant that he attempted to lock himself into the room for protection. When the woman returned, she found blood on the walls and floor of the room, and she attempted to summon help.

Attorneys in the case say that the man may not be fully competent to stand trial because of mental illness. Evaluations are currently under way to determine whether the defendant suffered from a mental condition at the time of the offense; if so, the nature of his criminal defense would change significantly. Currently, the man is being held in the St. Louis County Jail in Virginia, Minnesota. He is being monitored by suicide watch.

Criminal defendants with mental illnesses deserve fair criminal proceedings based on their individual needs. In this case, all criminal proceedings have been put on hold to determine whether the man is competent to stand trial. Individuals suffering from mental illnesses should be treated differently - receiving rehabilitation, perhaps, instead of punishment - than those who simply act out of malice. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help those defendants receive the fair trial they deserve by obtaining unbiased mental health evaluations.

Source: Northlands News Center, "Murder charges filed in Babbitt homicide" No author given, Jan. 16, 2014

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