The Insanity Defense on Almost Human

Almost Human continues to impress me. The episode “Beholder,” demonstrated excellent legal issues set against dynamic storytelling.

The story started out as catch the serial killer who is killing “pretty people” by extracting their DNA, causing a heart attack, and then using the victim’s DNA to make himself look more attractive. The episode did not follow the standard formula that the “villain” was evil, but ended with a strong Bladerunner rooftop face-off. I almost expected a Roy type speech of “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”

The “villain” Eric suffered from a psychological disorder where he thought he was not attractive, thus constantly seeking perfection by killing people for their DNA to improve his looks. There is no excuse for murder, but this disorder would be enough for an effective insanity defense. The key element of what must be proven is a mental disease made Eric incapable of knowing or understanding the nature and quality of his act or was incapable of knowing or understanding that his act was morally or legally wrong. 2-3400 CALCRIM 3450.

DRN_PrettyDefense_8786I think a defense attorney could win on that argument, because Eric was being driven to commit murder because of his illness. This twist made the episode highly dynamic, because it created empathy for someone who had killed nine people. Everything he did was driven by his disease and a desire to be loved by a woman he was exchanging instant messages with. Normally there is no sympathy for a serial killer.

“Beholder” showed perhaps the most physical and computer forensics in the entire season, plus issues of subpenaing third party information. The technology at issue were nano-bots used to collect the DNA.  Augmented Reality was also used for holographic reconstructions of the victims, in addition to Dorian acting as both a mobile crime lab and having an AED built into his hands. Facial recognition software was also used to identify the suspect.

I will avoid giving away the other major reveals. In my opinion, this episode touched on significant issues of the human condition, featured excellent examples of technology used in police investigations and presented a great legal issue. Job well done.

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Josh Gilliland
Josh Gilliland is a California attorney who focuses his practice on eDiscovery. Josh is the co-creator of The Legal Geeks, which has made the ABA Journal Top Blawg 100 Blawg for 2013 to 2016, and was nominated for Best Podcast for the 2015 Geekie Awards. Josh has presented at legal conferences and comic book conventions across the United States. He also ties a mean bow tie.