Mentally Ill Man Who Murdered a Law Enforcement Officer May Be Released

12/27/2011 11:41 pm ET | Updated Feb 26, 2012

Eric Clark, an allegdly severely mentally ill man convicted in 2003 of murdering Flagstaff, Ariz. police officer Jeffrey Moritz in 2000, was just ordered freed or retried because evidence of his mental illness was withheld from his initial trial, reports the Treatment Advocacy Center.

According to U.S. District Court Judge Jay R. Irwin, before Mr. Clark killed Officer Moritz, Clark's family spent years trying to get the Arizona mental health system to treat him. They wouldn't. When Clark was arrested for a previous DUI and possession of drugs, his parents "begged the juvenile people to keep him because of his mental health issues, but they released him." His parents even hired an attorney to try to get authorities to press charges and keep him detained for treatment, the judge wrote.

The case shows the need for change. Rather than being released, Mr. Clark will likely be retried. If retried and found "not guilty because of mental illness," he could be released with no requirement to stay in treatment, which could also lead to another incident.

To prevent this, one proposal would allow courts to compel people found guilty because of mental illness, or not guilty because of mental illness, or unfit to stand trial, to stay in treatment for the maximum amount of time they would have served had they been found guilty. This treatment could be in a locked ward, if needed, or in outpatient treatment. The person could be moved from one to the other on an as-needed basis, with no further due process needed, and subjected to mandatory and directly observed treatment to prevent future dangerous behavior.

People who commit crimes because of their insanity need to be kept sane. Mandated enforced treatment can do that.

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