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Lansing man with schizophrenia charged with lying to police

A Lansing man likely was suffering from mental illness when he falsely confessed to a murder last year. Despite this, the Ingham County prosecutor is pursuing a felony criminal charge against him. The lying to police charge is getting criticized by the former head of the state’s prosecutors’ association, among others. This case seems to be about differing perceptions about mental illness, and whether it affected the defendant’s actions while under police interrogation.

The felony charge against the defendant, 21, stems from an interrogation police conducted against him while investigating a shooting death from June 2013. It is not clear if the defendant had a defense attorney present during the questioning. At some point, after officers told him that a witness had seen him do it, he claimed that he had shot the victim. However, police doubted the confession, and later determined that the witness was incorrect.

The defendant was later diagnosed with schizophrenia. He is undergoing mental health treatment in Lansing, and is not currently considered mentally competent to stand trial. However, he is still charged with lying to police, and Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III currently plans to pursue the charge, if and when the defendant is healthy enough.

Observers are calling on Dunnings to drop the charge. The longtime former head of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan said that Dunnings should use his discretion to dismiss it. Former state Rep. Lynne Martinez said that the defendant’s mental illness caused him to lie to police.

But Dunnings apparently believes that the defendant was not mentally ill at the time of the June interrogation. He suggested to the Lansing State Journal that the defendant either had his schizophrenia under control at the time -- or did not have schizophrenia at all.

According to WebMD, a person must have symptoms of schizophrenia for at least six months before he or she can be diagnosed with the disorder.

Mental illness can cause a person to lose control of his or her actions. It can be a viable defense to many criminal charges.

Source: Lansing State Journal, “Former state officials want lying to police charge dropped against mentally ill man,” Kevin Grasha, Feb. 18, 2014

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