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Perez v. Cain

United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
529 F.3d 588 (2008)


Salvador Perez (defendant) lived with his wife and children in Texas. On July 15, 1996, Perez, fearing that drug dealers were pursuing him in order to kill him, left for Florida with his 12-year-old son, Salvatore Jr. Perez believed a black car was following him, and he repeatedly looked out for other cars while driving on back roads. Perez eventually reached New Orleans and stopped at the Fair Grounds. A Fair Grounds security officer called the police. Perez fled but an officer spotted him and pursued him. Perez shot and killed the officer. He was charged with the officer’s murder and initially deemed competent to stand trial. Soon after, however, he was sent to Feliciana Forensic Facility (FFF) for further examination. There, a psychiatrist named Carrington examined him, concluding that Perez’s thoughts were disorganized, that he experienced hallucinations and delusions, and that he was not competent to stand trial. Carrington acknowledged that Perez’s brief confinement prior to arriving at FFF could have factored into Perez’s psychological condition at the time of examination. Later at trial, seven psychiatric experts testified that Perez suffered from serious mental illness. Six of them said the serious mental illness made him incapable of knowing right from wrong when he shot the officer. The seventh expert, Carrington, was not asked about Perez’s mental condition when he shot the officer. Rosa, Perez’s wife, testified that Perez had been acting oddly for the two weeks preceding the incident. The State (plaintiff) cross-examined her and referred to contradictory statements she had made soon after the incident. Rosa had told police and another doctor that Perez had not been exhibiting psychological problems prior to the incident. The State itself did not proffer any evidence rebutting Perez’s evidence of mental illness. The State relied on its cross-examinations to demonstrate Perez and his family were lying about Perez’s mental condition. The jury found Perez guilty of first degree murder. Perez appealed, arguing there was insufficient evidence to show he had not proven his insanity by a preponderance of the evidence. The state appellate court affirmed the conviction. Perez then filed a habeas petition in federal district court. The district court found there was insufficient evidence demonstrating that Perez failed to prove insanity by a preponderance of the evidence.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Reavley, J.)

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