The recent case of Commonwealth v. DiPadova in Massachusetts demonstrates how extremely important it is for an experienced Massachusetts and Boston criminal homicide attorney to deviate from proposing a model jury instruction when the facts of the case necessitate a change from what is customarily used.
In the DiPadova case, the Defendant was convicted of killing his former landlady. The Defendant had a substantial history of serious mental illness and had experienced auditory hallucinations (hearing voices). He also had a long history of poly substance abuse, including marijuana, cocaine and alcohol. The defense at trial was that the defendant due to a mental disease or defect, lacked the criminal responsibility for his actions because he lacked the substantial capacity at the time of the crime to appreciate both the wrongfulness of his conduct and to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law. Commonwealth v. McHoul, 352 Mass. 544, 546-547 (1967).
There was evidence presented at trial of the interaction between the defendant’s abuse of legal and illegal drugs and his mental illness. It was no surprise that the mental health experts hired for both the defense and prosecution disagreed on the impact that the substance abuse had on the defendant’s mental state at the time of the homicide. The Defendant asserted that his drug use aggravated the symptoms of his mental illness. The court stated that the model instruction was erroneous because it only concerned the impact of drug consumption or alcohol use under circumstances in which a defendant’s mental disease or defect does not, independently, render him criminally irresponsible.