Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lavenston Horne Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity

The Miami Herald reports on a surprising decision reached by a jury in Miami. A Miami-Dade jury reached an extremely rare verdict, finding a Miami man not guilty of murdering his parents by reason of insanity.

Johnnie Horne was fixing dinner on July 8, 1996, when his troubled younger son walked into the kitchen. Horne's wife, Mary Anne, was on the phone in another room when she heard the first gunshots. When she rushed into the kitchen where her husband lay dying, her son turned the gun on her. After killing his mother, Lavenston Horne took aim at his sister, Inga, shooting her over and over again.

"Who's the king now?" he yelled at her.

That's a pretty insane thing to do. But when he was arrested, Horne claimed his father did the shooting and turned the gun on himself. That most improbable lie, according to the lawyers, made an insanity defense very difficult because it indicated an understanding that killing was wrong.

Nevertheless, the defense team was able to convince the jury to send the killer to the state mental hospital instead of the penitentiary. One theory as to why the jury came to this decision is the way the defendant appeared in court. Often that has a greater impact on their decision than the actual inciden itself.

I mark this as another indication of the positive direction we're moving: away from the death penalty. As Sarah wrote the other day, cases like these can one day result in "the death knell for the death penalty."

What's your opinion? Should killers who are completely crazy be held accountable? Should they be judged with the same standard as say the mafia hit man who does it for money?

Please tell us what you think.


  1. Mike,

    How about posting some of the other facts in the case...straight from your link.

    During the weeklong trial, jurors heard about Horne's problems with his parents. His father, a retired Miami-Dade police officer, had caught him smoking marijuana and thrown him out of the house.

    Yep, smoking marijuana in a retired cops' house is a difinite sign of insanity...or just a spoiled brat. Where is the condemnation for the mother/father in this case?

    Surely, they abused him--made him smoke those joints?

    He lived with relatives until he got in a fight with two cousins and was thrown out again.

    Obviously, the relatives didn't understand and support him. Couldn't be that he was just taking advantage of people's good nature, that he was at fault for the fight, right?

    Surely, many people would support his claim of insanity...not just his hired defense attorney, surely his behavior after the crime would be indicative.

    ''Based on everything that he said and his demeanor, there was no indication that he had any kind of mental deficiencies,'' Granado said after the verdict. ``Honestly, I was numb when I heard the verdict.''

    Isn't one of the basis for insanity not knowing right from wrong, but if he tried to cover up the crime...doesn't that indicate knowing right/wrong?
    When Horne was arrested the day of the killings, he claimed his father ''went crazy'' and shot his mother and sister, then turned the gun on himself.

    Love this line:
    'In my experience with insanity cases, mine and those of others, oftentimes what it comes down to is jurors will say to you, `I was looking at that guy. I watched him, I saw him. He's not faking it. There's something way, way wrong with him,' '' he said.

    Guess these jurors never heard of acting, it's been around for a while.

    Now, is there any doubt that he committed the murders, NO. So, does that mean in a few days, after appropriate "treatment" a doctor can pronounce him sane and let him go? Yes.

    Wouldn't a better solution be "guilty by reason of insanity", he would then be sentenced to life in a prison hospital (appropriate consequence) and receive treatment for the rest of his life.

  2. What's the use in keeping violently criminally insane people alive on the public dime? Living in the thorazine ward likely isn't much enjoyable for them and it costs a lot of money to the populace that could be spent on mental health and medical research to possibly identify and abort such creatures before they are born.

  3. Oddly enough, I have a tangential experience with the effect of this form of sentencing.

    My dad's cousin Dr. G. Miller is John W Hinckley's appointed psychiatrist. Every year or so he has to go say "You can let him out for supervised day trips but he's still not right in the head and never will be."

    He'll likely live a long time and most psychiatric facilities charge a thousand dollars a day, give or take, to maintain a patient. That's a lot of bread for somebody who should be a dead man.

    If only one of the Secret Service men had shot him instead of arrested him...

  4. I hear ya, Bob. Smoking pot, getting kicked out of the cousins' house doesn't sound all that different from a normal teen. And juries often relying on the appearance of a defendant to determine insanity sounds ludicrous to me. Getting out of the nut house in a couple years is a prospect that I'd describe as frightening, especially since we could never be any more confident in the medical staff than we are in the jury.

    Yet, for me, moving away from the death penalty is important. This case certainly seems to do that.

  5. I was an alternate juror on this case. I think that most comments on this blog relating to this case are based on a few facts stated in one newspaper article. The jurors who deliberated on this case had to listen to testimony from many people, including 2 psychologists and a psychiatrist. As a juror you are instructed to hear ALL of the evidence and base your decision on the EVIDENCE. This tragic murder came to trial nearly 13 years later, only because the defendant was not found competent to stand trial on 2 earlier occasions. Not everyone has to agree on a jury's decision, but a jury deliberated and came to a decision based on the evidence presented at trial. Please give them the benefit of the doubt. Even the police officers who testified on this case heard all the evidence. They only gave their part of the puzzle.

  6. Anon,

    Thanks for the comments. I think it further supports how messed up the judicial system in America is.

    This person was found not competent 2 other times and was still out on the streets, able to commit crimes.

    If a person isn't competent to know right from wrong, they shouldn't be on the streets but in a place where they can't harm anyone else. The judicial system failed again and again.

  7. Dear Anonymous, Thanks a million for coming by with some first-hand info on this fascinating case. I only hope Mr. Horne gets the help he needs.

  8. Family member of Mr l Horne he has mentally ill all his life. Mental illness time in our family. He isn't the only murder in the family. Wish I was at the trail. His father was no saint. He abused his wife and kids. Wish I could write a book. Ings is the result of an affair Johnny had and his wife took her in and raised her. Family secrets what you do in the dark will come to light.