The jury back with a guilty verdict, but that doesn't mean that the case is over.  Now the decision becomes one of responsibility.

It took less than an hour for the Douglas County jury to come to a decision over the case of Robert Lee Bennett III, the 42-year old man who was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in connection with the fatal stabbing of his mother more than two years ago in Superior.  That decision on December 7 was "guilty".

The decision from the jury marks the end of phase one of the trial.  Now that Bennett was found guilty of the charges stemming from the September 29, 2020 incident in Superior, the next phase of the proceedings start.

Phase two of the task will all come down to "responsibility".  According to the story details shared by the Superior Telegram [paywall], Wisconsin Law says that "a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if, at the time it was committed,  they lacked the capacity to appreciate the conduct was wrong due to a mental disease of defect".

Specifically, the reconvened jury will be tasked with determining:

  • Was "mental disease or defect" involved in the case.  In other words - was Bennett mentally aware of his actions when the crime was committed?
  • Was there an awareness of the "wrongfulness of the conduct"?  Now that he was found guilty, they jury will ask whether or not Bennett understood the actions he took that led to the first-degree intentional homicide verdict.

It's up to the defense to prove the accused's mental capacity to understand the actions.  And - they've already provided clues to how they'll proceed.

That article in the Telegram details that the defense attorney shared items during his opening statements that would shine the light on Bennett's mental state.  Attorney Michael Hoffman entered testimony and evidence into the proceedings about Bennett's "strange behavior prior to the homicide". Some of that behavior included:

  • Referring to himself as "Robert Bennett or whoever I am" when he called 911
  • Referring to himself as "Boonaga" when the Superior Police asked for his name
  • Making strange statements to the authorities as they questioned him during the investigation.  Those statements included "[t]alking about passing the number around; not recognizing his mother; he was strangely bothered by a computer; bringing up pumpkin, candles, cheese; cheese is good on crackers...." and more.

After deliberations return, the Douglas County jury will need to determine whether or not Bennett was responsible for his actions.  If they determine that he was - he'll be placed into the "custody of the Wisconsin Department of Health Services and....placed in an appropriate institution, unless the court determines that he would not pose a danger to himself or others".  First-degree homicide charges in Wisconsin carry a lifetime in prison penalty.

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