A 24-year-old man from Tustin who suffers from mental health issues including paranoid schizophrenia was found legally insane by a Santa Ana jury today after convicting him last week of the domestic violence murder of his stepmother in 2008. According to reports, the man believes himself to be the King of England and is convinced that the British royal family will intervene on his behalf.

According to the public defender representing him, the young man grew up in a series of foster homes. By September 2008, he had come to believe that father and new stepmother, who was 24 at the time of her death, were out to get him, and he blamed them for his mental illness.

The Orange County Register reports that the young man’s dangerous behavior appears to have been longstanding, and his father had begged mental health officials to keep him in an inpatient facility. Instead, the then-20-year-old was allowed to receive treatment on an outpatient basis and, according to his father, never given adequate supervision.

On Sept. 15, 2008, the young man allegedly purchased a four-inch folding knife and attempted to break into his father’s apartment in Tustin, but his father was not home. When his stepmother opened the apartment door slightly to see what was going on, the young man forced his way in. Witnesses said they heard the woman say, “Please, don’t kill me,” and then silence. She was later found to have been stabbed more than 60 times.

When the sanity verdict was announced today, after a day of jury deliberations, the young man showed no reaction. His public defender says that he had never understood the charges against him or the trial. Instead, he generally wanted to talk about trains.

After this tragedy, the 24-year-old’s mental health treatment will be reevaluated. While he cannot be sentenced to prison, he is likely to be committed to a state mental hospital for years — or even for the rest of his life. Next month, a hearing will be held to determine if he is suitable for outpatient treatment, but his public defender believes it is unlikely.

Many people mock the insanity defense as a “get out of jail free card.” The reality is typically far more complex and unsettling. In California, a legal insanity verdict means that the defendant has been found to be incapable of understanding the nature and quality of the crime and unable, at the time of the offense, to distinguish right from wrong. It is truly heartbreaking when someone with that degree of incapacity is not provided with proper treatment or, as in this case, is not cared for appropriately even when family members have reported previous domestic violence incidents or other serious issues to the authorities.

Source: The Orange County Register, “Verdict: Man was insane when he stabbed stepmom,” Larry Welborn, March 28, 2012