the benefit of this tour de force and was acquitted on the ground of insanity -- something that would not have happened if he had been tried a few days earlier. He was not in a position to complain when he found himself in a mental institution as a result of receiving what seemed to him at the time to be a benefit of the new outlook.
So, too, in Ragsdale v. Overholser, 108 U.S.App.D.C. 308, 281 F.2d 943, the defendant was tried subsequently to the adoption of the view by Saint Elizabeths Hospital that a sociopathic personality constituted a mental disease. Taking advantage of that attitude he secured an acquittal on the ground of insanity and found himself in a mental institution. Under the circumstances, he was not in a position to contend that there was anything arbitrary or capricious on the part of the superintendent of Saint Elizabeths Hospital in refusing to certify him for release.
Overholser v. Russell, 108 U.S.App.D.C. 400, 283 F.2d 195, is distinguishable because the defendant in that case was suffering from psychoneurosis, which is generally regarded as a form of insanity. That case did not involve a sociopath.
It may not be inappropriate to observe that counsel for defendants in borderline cases in which the offense is of a type that would carry at most a short term of imprisonment, frequently do their clients a disservice when they request a mental examination. Often the outcome of the examination is that the defendant is found competent and yet he will have been incarcerated for several months in the criminal ward of a mental hospital admidst madmen while the study of his mental state is being conducted; and if he is eventually convicted and sentenced to imprisonment, his incarceration is prolonged that much longer. On the other hand, if he is acquitted on the ground of insanity, he runs the risk of being incarcerated for a much longer period than might have been the case if he were sentenced to a short term in jail. Counsel for defendants are advocates and must have the courage to represent their clients' best interests within the orbit of ethical practice. They must not be deterred by fear of criticism if they would act according to the highest traditions of the bar. It is not their function to vindicate the public interest. This is the duty of the United States Attorney, whose position is not that of a partisan advocate. If the defendant is actually in need of mental treatment, his counsel would serve him better by securing treatment for him on the civil side of a mental institution, possibly even as a voluntary patient, if and when an opportunity to do so arises. Mental examinations and the defense of insanity are better reserved for capital cases, as well as for cases in which the defendant runs the risk of being sentenced to imprisonment for a long term. These comments are not at all inconsistent with the decision of the Court of Appeals in Overholser v. Lynch, D.C. Cir., 288 F.2d 388. That case holds that a trial judge has discretion to refuse to accept a plea of guilty if he is of the opinion that the defendant is mentally incompetent. It involved a defendant who was a manic-depressive of the manic type, -- a person clearly insane. That opinion does not intimate that it is the duty of defense counsel to interpose the defense of insanity or to request a mental examination, irrespective of the defendant's best interests.
The court finds and concludes that the respondent's refusal to file the statutory certificate that would lead to the release of the petitioner from Saint Elizabeths Hospital, is arbitrary and capricious; that the petitioner is free of mental disease and mental defect; that, therefore, he cannot be dangerous by reason of any mental disease or mental defect; and that he is entitled to an unconditional discharge from the hospital. The writ is sustained and the release of the defendant ordered. The release will be stayed for ten days to enable the Government to bring any civil or other proceedings to test the sanity of the petitioner if it deems it wise to do so. This opinion will constitute the findings of fact and conclusions of law. Counsel will submit proposed order.