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People v. Wetmore

Supreme Court of California
22 Cal.3d 318 (1978)


Facts

Wetmore (defendant) was released from Brentwood Veteran’s Hospital. Wetmore began to have delusions that he owned property and went to Joseph Cacciatore’s apartment, believing it was his own. After three days, Cacciatore returned home and found Wetmore there. Cacciatore called the police, and only when they arrived did Wetmore realize he was not the owner of the apartment. Cacciatore soon discovered that numerous possessions were missing, and Wetmore was charged with burglary, upon which he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity (NGI). The court appointed two psychiatrists to examine Wetmore. Wetmore waived a jury trial and asked that the cause be submitted based on the preliminary hearing transcript, containing only Cacciatore’s testimony and the psychiatric reports, which outlined Wetmore’s extensive history of mental illness, as well as the events at Cacciatore’s apartment. Pursuant to California law, the trial was bifurcated, consisting of a guilt phase and an insanity phase. At the guilt phase, Wetmore’s counsel argued that the psychiatric reports showed that he entered the apartment under the delusion that he owned it and therefore did not intend to commit any theft. The court found the psychiatric records inadmissible, relying on dicta in a prior case, People v. Wells, 33 Cal.2d 330 (1949), which stated that, because sanity is presumed at the guilt phase of a bifurcated trial, evidence presented to show lack of mental capacity to commit the crime because of legal insanity is prohibited at this stage. During the insanity phase, the court found that Wetmore was insane and therefore not guilty by reason of insanity. The trial court subsequently found that Wetmore’s insanity persisted and ordered his commitment to a state hospital for treatment. Wetmore appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Tobriner, J.)

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