Today’s news contained an article about the second trial of Naveed Afzal Haq, the man who shot six women at the Seattle Jewish Federation in 2006, killing Pamela Waechter. Haq was tried last year, and acquitted on one attempted murder charge. The jury was unable to decide on the other charges, including the murder of Waechter, and now his second trial on these charges has been turned over to a jury.
In both trials, Haq’s lawyers argued that he should be acquitted by reason of insanity. There is no question that Haq suffered from some serious personality disorders, but the insanity defense requires more than that.
I’m not a law professor or even a lawyer. But the jury isn’t made up of law professors either, and they will have to decide what to do with Haq.
The State of Washington employs the well-known “M’Naghten Rule“, the original form of which is this:
Every man is to be presumed to be sane, and . . . that to establish a defense on the ground of insanity, it must be clearly proved that, at the time of the committing of the act, the party accused was laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind, as not to know the nature and quality of the act he was doing; or if he did know it, that he did not know he was doing what was wrong.
So in order for his client to be acquitted, Haq’s lawyer has to convince the jury that either he didn’t know what he was doing, or was too crazy to know that it was wrong. The lawyer, Christopher Swaby, is going for the latter. Here’s what he said:
He thinks that he did the right thing — that is, the inability to see right from wrong. and that is why he is not guilty by reason of insanity.
He thinks that he did the right thing.
If that’s good enough for insanity, then Nidal Hasan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, and Osama bin Laden are insane too. Did any of them not think that they were doing the right thing?
Haq, a Muslim, told authorities he was angered by the war in Iraq and U.S. military cooperation with Israel...
According to a statement of probable cause, Haq told a 911 dispatcher: “These are Jews and I’m tired of getting pushed around and our people getting pushed around by the situation in the Middle East.” — Washington Post
This of course is exactly what Bin Laden and other jihadists have said. Haq’s own jihad was on a smaller scale, and apparently he doesn’t belong to a recognized terrorist group, but both his motivation — a radical Islamic ideology — and the act he chose to express it — the random killing of people somehow related to your enemy — were the same as those of more celebrated terrorists.
Both Hasan and Haq were unstable, unhappy people who perhaps sought a purpose that they were unable to find elsewhere in radical Islam. And both of them clearly knew what they were doing; indeed, each prepared carefully for his actions. Haq bought his weapon in advance, observing the three-day federally mandated waiting period. And he carefully purchased hollow-point ammunition, in order to do the maximum damage.
But although neither of them believed that his actions were wrong, their lawyers will have to prove that they were “laboring under such a defect of reason, from disease of mind” that they were unable to know this.
Haq’s lawyer referred to “the inability to see right from wrong” as if that were all there was to it, but there is a disease-caused ‘inability’ and an ideological one.
Only the former will get him acquitted. I hope the jury clearly understands this distinction.
Update [15 Dec 1215 PST]: Haq was found guilty on all counts!