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Cook County Judge Orders Jail Time & Sanity Test for Laughing Courtroom Spectator

A Cook County judge in the murder case against Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke has ordered a courtroom spectator who made a strange laughing sound during a hearing last Thursday to be jailed for more than five weeks and subjected to a sanity test.

The two-second outburst took place after the judge called for a recess and was stepping toward his chambers.

The judge ordered courtroom deputies to take the spectator into custody. After the hearing, the judge had him brought back out.

Standing before the judge, the man squinted and appeared confused.

The judge entered a finding of direct criminal contempt and ordered him jailed without bond until a July 10 hearing.

The judge also ordered the circuit court’s Forensic Clinical Services unit to examine the man for his fitness to stand trial and his sanity.

The man, 59, lives on Chicago’s Northwest Side. His mother, who lives in Indiana, said he has struggled with bipolar disorder since he was a teenager. She said he spent May 12-15 of this year in a hospital psychiatric unit.

Correctional staff members evaluated the man and put him in a mental-health section of the jail’s infirmary.

This Cook County judge has now jailed spectators for direct contempt during at least three of Van Dyke hearings.

Some Van Dyke proceedings, compared to other cases, have drawn large numbers of observers. The judge has warned he will not allow “mob rule” in the courtroom and has said his aim is a fair trial in this highly publicized case. At the start of each hearing, a sheriff’s deputy reads a warning from the judge against outbursts by spectators.

This case brings up the insanity defense, which most people are familiar with, but few understand how it works. A plea of insanity does not claim that the person on trial is innocent, but rather, asserts the person did commit the criminal act, but is not legally culpable for their own conduct due to poor mental health. An insanity defense varies from other defenses where if someone is found not guilty by reason of insanity, they are not released, rather they are committed to a mental institution.

Under Florida law, all people are presumed to be sane. So, the law assumes someone on trial for a crime is sane, unless that person can prove they are not. It is up to the person on trial to present “clear and convincing evidence” that they are factually not sane.

If you or someone you love is involved in a criminal proceeding, you need to enlist the help of a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton to understand your rights and options under the law. Contact us today online or call us at 866-608-5529 for  a free consultation today.

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