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McCulloch v. Commonwealth

Virginia Court of Appeals
514 S.E.2d 797 (1999)


Facts

The Commonwealth of Virginia (plaintiff) prosecuted James C. McCulloch (defendant) for the self-confessed murder of his wife. A Virginia statute required McCulloch, as an indigent defendant, to undergo a mental health evaluation by a court-appointed psychiatrist or other mental health expert. The trial judge appointed a psychologist who evaluated McCulloch and found that he was probably sane when he killed his wife. Nevertheless, McCulloch asserted an insanity defense, and moved to be reevaluated by a second court-appointed expert. McCulloch wanted the judge to appoint the psychiatrist who once treated him for a head wound. McCulloch argued that, unlike the psychologist, the psychiatrist was medically qualified to say how the old wound could have affected McCulloch's more recent behavior. The judge denied the motion because McCulloch had already undergone the single evaluation to which he was entitled and a second evaluation was unlikely to produce a different result, and because McCulloch's former psychiatrist was unqualified to opine on McCulloch's mental condition at the time of the murder. The judge also denied McCulloch's proffer of lay witnesses who could testify that McCulloch struck them as being "crazy" or "depressed" at the time, because McCulloch had not introduced any expert opinion or factual evidence demonstrating his insanity. The jury convicted McCulloch and he appealed to the Virginia Court of Appeals.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Bumgardner, J.)

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