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Marine in Tampa DUI Manslaughter Case Expects to Use Insanity Defense
U.S. Marine Captain Scott Sciple of Tampa is charged with DUI manslaughter in the death of Pedro Rivera. Rivera was killed last year in a head-on collision on I-275.
Authorities allege that Sciple was driving his Chevy Impala the wrong way on the interstate near Bearss Avenue when it collided with Rivera’s vehicle.
Sciple’s defense attorney told a Hillsborough County Circuit Judge this week that he expects to rely on some form of the insanity defense. The attorney indicated that Sciple, a decorated combat veteran, suffered combat injuries that affected his mental capacity. (According to Marine officials, Sciple served four overseas tours of duty: Kuwait in 2003; Afghanistan in 2006; and Iraq in 2004 and 2009.)
Despite the media attention that an insanity defense gets, it is really not used all that often. Florida follows the so-called M’Naghten rule: Two conditions must be met for a person to be ruled legally insane such that they cannot be guilty of a crime. First, if he suffered at the time of his crime from a mental disease or defect and, second, if he did not understand the nature of his act, or, if he did understand, did not know that it was wrong.
If a defendant like Captain Sciple is found not guilty by reason of insanity, he would be committed to a state mental facility until doctors determine whether he is still a danger. If he is determined to still be dangerous, confinement would continue indefinitely until his condition changed.
The defense will bear the burden of proving Sciple’s mental defect and his inability to understand right from wrong at the time of the crime. In order to meet this burden, they will call expert witnesses to testify. The State will have an opportunity to rebut the insanity assertion by cross-examination and by the testimony of their own expert witnesses.