Man, 76, Gets Life for Killing Neighbor, 13

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on July 23, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A 76-year-old Wisconsin man who shot and killed his 13-year-old neighbor will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

John Henry Spooner of Milwaukee told police he confronted Darius Simmons because he was sure the boy had taken four shotguns from his home. None of his firearms were found in Simmons' home, however.

Jurors took less than an hour to find Spooner guilty of first-degree intentional homicide after they watched video -- from his own security camera -- of Spooner shooting the boy in the chest in May 2012, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

The jury needed even less time -- a mere 15 minutes -- to reject Spooner's insanity defense.

Wisconsin's Insanity Defense

Wisconsin follows the Model Penal Code rule for the insanity defense. Under the rule, the defense team must prove that because of a mental disease or defect, the defendant couldn't:

  • Appreciate the wrongfulness of his or her conduct, or
  • Conform his or her conduct to the requirements of law.

Spooner's defense attorney argued that his client had "hypomanic personality," which causes bouts of crazed conduct. As evidence, his attorney described some of Spooner's earlier acts -- such as when he killed a kitten his daughter had brought home and when he attempted to strangle his wife, according to the Sentinel.

(Side note: Discussing the time your client killed a kitten isn't a great way to win a jury's sympathy.)

The Jury's Verdict

Unfortunately for Spooner, Wisconsin explicitly excludes repeated criminal or otherwise antisocial conduct from being considered a "mental disease or defect." It's a personality type, not a mental disease or defect.

Jurors didn't buy the insanity argument and concluded that Spooner was extremely angry and had a lapse in judgment, but fully understood the consequences of his actions.

Because the jurors said Spooner had no mental illness at the time of the shooting, they did not have to consider the second question of whether he could appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or conform his conduct to the law.

Chances are, that would've failed too. When Spooner was on the stand, he even said "justice" was served when he shot his teenage neighbor, reports the Journal Sentinel.

Spooner's attorney plans to file an appeal.

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