May 31, 2024 - News

Kingsessing shooting suspect to pursue insanity defense

Illustration of a row of gavels, with all but one of them transparent.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A man accused of killing five people in last year's Kingsessing mass shooting plans to mount an insanity defense, per records obtained by Axios.

The big picture: The rare legal strategy is being pursued after the alleged shooter's case was put on hold last year.

  • A court-appointed psychiatrist found the 40-year-old incompetent to stand trial last summer, but the case resumed in March after he underwent mental health treatment.

State of play: Defense attorneys notified prosecutors in April they may call expert psychiatric witnesses to try and show Kimbrady Carriker suffered from a mental illness, preventing him from knowing "the nature and quality of his actions were wrong," per court records.

  • Carriker is charged with murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons offenses.

Flashback: Carriker is accused of killing the first victim, Joseph Wamah Jr., in a house in Kingsessing on July 2. The death went unnoticed for more than 40 hours because of a dispatch error that sent officers to the wrong address, police said.

  • Prosecutors say he later returned to the same neighborhood wearing a ski mask and bulletproof vest, using an AR-15 assault rifle to fire "aimlessly" at vehicles and people on the streets.

The fine print: The burden of proof in the case shifts from the prosecution to the defense because the latter has raised an "affirmative defense," Rutgers law professor J.C. Lore III tells Axios.

  • The defense must show by a preponderance of evidence — meaning more likely than not — that the accused's mental health impaired him from understanding what he was doing when he committed the crimes.

Zoom in: The defense filing doesn't mention specific mental health conditions.

  • Carriker's attorneys indicated they may rely on testimony from Michelle Joy and Clarence Watson, psychiatry professors at UPenn, to bolster their defense.

What they're saying: Lore says the insanity defense could coax a better plea deal out of prosecutors in a case where the defendant, if found guilty, faces life in prison.

  • While it's possible Carriker could be freed if found not guilty by reason of insanity, Lore says it's more likely that a judge would send him to a mental health facility.
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