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Alleged Serial Killer Considering the Insanity Plea

What are th odds of it working?

used with permission from iclipart
Source: used with permission from iclipart

On Tuesday, July 24, 2018, 27-year old Danueal Drayton was arrested in North Hollywood, California with a bound 28-year-old woman whom he had reportedly raped and held against her will. He is also accused of strangling to death a Queens native, 29-year-old Samantha Stewart, and raping an unnamed victim in Brooklyn, New York. Since his arrest, he has claimed he has killed seven women nationwide, although, so far, this has not been confirmed.

Alleged serial killer Drayton has, in fact, said a number of things since his arrest, especially about his claimed mental illness. “My body did this, not my mind,” he reportedly told investigators. In an interview from his jail cell with the Daily News, Drayton said he suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. According to Drayton, he hears voices that make him do violent things.

Serial Killers and the Insanity Defense

If Danueal Drayton turns out to be a serial killer, he certainly won’t be the first to plead insanity. Jeffrey Dahmer, Kenneth Bianchi, Albert Fish and John Wayne Gacy are just a few who have gone down this road in an attempt to avoid hearing the executioner’s song. In fact, serial killers are more likely to plead Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity than other criminals (17% versus 1%) but much less likely to be successful (3% versus 25%)..

There are several reasons for this; serial murder typically involves a significant degree of planning as well as concerted efforts to evade detection; neither of these are congruent with a person who is so psychiatrically impaired that he either doesn’t understand that what he is doing is wrong (so why cover it up?) or couldn’t control his behavior (so why was he able to premeditate his crime)?

And then, of course, there’s the fact that jurors don’t look favorably on defendants who have hurt strangers – especially children. After his guilty verdict, a number of jurors stated that the believed Albert Fish was insane but were so disgusted by his rape and murder of three young children they wanted him executed anyway.

A Shot in the Dark

According to court records, Danueal Drayton does have a psychiatric history. At one point he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and placed on psychotropic medication. In August 2012, after his arrest for violating a protection order and assaulting and strangling an ex-girlfriend, a judge ordered a mental health examination and ruled he was unable to understand the proceedings against him so he spent 60 days in a psychiatric hospital.

However, here’s where things get a little problematic for Drayton’s insanity defense. Three months before Drayton’s incompetency ruling, after police were called to the Yale New Haven Hospital to investigate Drayton’s second serious assault on his ex-girlfriend, he told the officer his name was not Drayton but Darrell Ford, apparently in an attempt to appear mentally disturbed.

However, according to his victim, Drayton was not hearing voices, suffering from delusions or exhibiting any other signs of mental illness at the time of the attack. Instead, when she told him the relationship was over, he picked up a juice-filled glass bottle, smashed it over the right side of her head, and started strangling her. There other troublesome facts; a history of violence against women, a systematic and premeditated use of online dating sites to find his victims, and so forth.

And, according to ex-girlfriend, Zynea Barney, who dated Drayton for six months before he tried to kill her, Drayton had bragged before about “playing crazy” to escape legal consequences. After his arrest for trying to strangle her in her car after she discovered he was dating several other women; she said “he play-acted loony then, too.”

It’s understandable that some serial killers try the insanity defense: When you’re found with a bound and tortured victim, it’s hard to argue you didn’t do it. Unfortunately, the media hype around these often-bogus pleas makes it harder for the rare mentally ill defendant who truly isn’t criminally responsible. At least – if history repeats itself – Danueal Drayton won’t escape justice.