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This case involves an interesting intellectual question: If a defendant is mentally ill, is it possible for that defendant to make a statement against interest or a party opponent admission? Statements against interest and party opponent admissions are generally held admissible as exceptions to the hearsay rule because of the perceived trustworthiness of such statements which stems from the rationalization that people do not say things against their own interest unless they are true. This in turn raises the additional questions of (1) what degree of insanity is involved, and (2) who determines that question?

Experts frequently are at odds on the question of insanity and its degree as applied to a particular defendant. For this reason, these issues ultimately are determined by the fact finder when the defense of not guilty by reason of insanity is raised. However, the venerable laws of evidence cannot be shut down merely because a defendant claims he is insane and has an expert testify. A trial court’s ruling regarding the admissibility of evidence cannot await the outcome of the jury’s determination regarding the sanity of the defendant. The rules of evidence are not applied differently when an insanity defense is raised. Clearly, insanity is a mixed question of law and fact that must be decided by the fact finder; however, the trial of that question is governed by the same rules of evidence applicable to all trials.

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