New Law Can Keep Criminals Out Of Jail With Provable Mental Illness

Fresno, California - There is a major concern over a newly passed bill that could keep murderers out of jail, with no record, if they prove they have a mental disorder that can be treated.

It’s a trailer bill, passed inside wide-sweeping budget legislation and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in June, that creates a diversion program for all crimes, including felonies.  District attorneys across the state are worried about its impacts, saying it could open a dangerous door when dealing with serious crimes.

 Kori Muhammad is charged with killing four people in a Fresno crime spree. In court he's tried to use mental health issues as part of his defense. Legal experts say a new California law passed in a budget bill could help suspects using this claim.  
"It looks like it's just another way for somebody with a mental problem to escape accountability," said Yuba County District Attorney Patrick McGrath. 

Assembly Bill 1810 creates a plan to keep people charged with any crime including murder, mass shootings, and fatal DUI's out of jail, as long as they can prove the crimes were committed because of a diagnosable mental disorder that can be treated. 

"That would mean anxiety, alcoholism, kleptomania," said McGrath. 

Carl Williams is one of the men who died in Kori Muhammad's alleged crime spree. The Williams family is planning a blood drive on July 25th in Carl's honor. 

"He was a really good man and I still see him as my kid of course. Just a giver, he was strong, he was going places," said Francine Williams. 

Carl's mother Francine just learned about this law that could impact families like hers from finding closure and justice. 

"What if it was your kid? Wouldn't you want justice? Wouldn't you want to go ahead and know that you have to be accountable for what you did?" 35:06> [Duration:0:09]

The bill was proposed by the California Department of State Hospitals to address a growing wait list of people deemed mentally incompetent to stand trial. Many prosecutors are asking state leaders to make a change.

"Oh I pray that they do and if they can't see the light I think it's time for people to do petitions, I think it's time for people to go ahead and protest and yell that this is unacceptable," said Williams. 

This is not just legislation. It's now the law. If nothing changes legal experts say if a psychological evaluation determines a mental disorder a person can bypass prison and complete a two-year diversion program. If successful, criminal charges could be dismissed and records sealed.
The Carl Williams Memorial Blood Drive will be held next week. It's happening on Wednesday July 25th from 9am to 6pm at 4343 W. Herndon Avenue. 

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