Does the Insanity Defense Apply to Attempted Human Genocide?

Friends Don't Let Friends Drift with Kaiju Brains

Treason is too light a word to describe Dr. Newton Geiszler’s plan to destroy humanity in Pacific Rim Uprising. The issue for Dr. Geiszler is whether the his attorneys could successfully argue the insanity defense. The Kaiju in the room is whether the good Doctor was under the control of “Alice” or if his recreational Kaiju brain drifting was done by his own free will. The answer would determine if Geiszler did not understand the wrongfulness of his actions, thus not guilty by reason of insanity or guilty.

Dr. Newton Geiszler planned the destruction of humanity by using Jäger drones fused with cloned Kaiju brains to open multiple breaches to allow for a Kaiju invasion of Earth. Phase two of the plan was to ignite the Ring of Fire to cause an extinction level event.

Dr. Geiszler collaborated with hostile aliens that resulted in the massive property damage in Tokyo. Geiszler could be charged with collaboration, treason, and attempted genocide.

The insanity defense requires the defense to prove by clear and convincing evidence that Dr. Geiszler was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his actions because of a severe mental disease or defect. 18 U.S.C.S. § 17. It should go without saying that hijacking building-sized robots to open an inter-dimensional portal for giant monsters to destroy all of humanity is a “wrongful act” that Dr. Geiszler should have understood.

The issue for Dr. Geiszler is whether he suffered from a mental defect due to his Kaiju drifting; if he was addicted to drifting with Alice; or if he purposely acted to destroy humanity.

Mental Defect from Drifting

The Defense could argue that Dr. Geiszler suffered brain damage from drifting with Alice, thus he could not understand the wrongfulness of destroying humanity. This would require expert testimony to explain how drifting works, how there is access to memories of both individuals, and how one can get lost in the drift. In the Defense’s favor is the fact Alice is the brain of an alien monster. An MRI could show the impact of drifting with Alice on Dr. Geiszler and possible brain damage. Moreover, Dr. Geiszler’s spooky Kaiju voice could be medical evidence of a mental disease from Alice. However, if there is no brain damage from the Kaiju drifting, there are still other options for the Defense.

The more challenging argument is that Alice was exerting some form of mind control over Dr. Geiszler. Cases where defendants attempt to offer expert testimony that a defendant was under the control of a cult, thus could not form the required mental intent for a crime, usually end with the expert’s testimony being excluded. See, People v. Vieira, 35 Cal. 4th 264, 266, (2005). The reason this sort of testimony is barred, is because the alleged mental disease would go the issue of the defendant’s mental intent, which is prohibited under California law. See, Vieira v. Chappell, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 14130, at *340-41 (E.D. Cal. Feb. 5, 2015), citing Cal. Penal Code § 28. This is different than a defendant not understanding the wrongfulness of his actions due to a mental disease, because intent goes to an element of a crime, not capacity to understand the act is wrong.

The issue of whether someone can be a victim of “mind control” is not one with case law helpful to Dr. Geiszler. In the writ of habeas corpus by the murderer of Senator Robert F. Kennedy, the Court analyzed the murderer’s claim of “hypnotic programming.” The Court noted that the theory someone could be hypnotized to commit murder and then to lose his or her memory of committing that murder was scientifically credible, but the petitioner did not provide any reliable evidence that actually happened. Sirhan v. Brazelton (C.D.Cal. 2013) 76 F. Supp. 3d 1073, 1123-1124. In the case of Dr. Geiszler, evidence would need to be offered that the “hypnotic programming” caused him to design and build one rogue Jäger; design drone Jägers programmed to launch an alien invasion; hundreds of DNA splicing micro-Kaiju; and wage war on humanity.

Not the easiest defense.

Addicted to Drifting

The Defense could argue that Dr. Geiszler had become addicted to drifting with Alice as a form of the insanity defense. Drug addiction can be argued as a form of the insanity defense if the drug addiction had 1) destroyed the defendant’s ability to distinguish between right and wrong; or 2) has made him act under a delusional compulsion. Mincey v. Head, 206 F.3d 1106, 1120 n.19 (11th Cir. 2000), citing Shirley v. State, 149 Ga. App. 194, 253 S.E.2d 787, 788 (1979). Drug addiction can also be a “psychiatric disorder” that can justify the involuntary commitment of “mentally ill” persons. Jackson v. Indiana, 406 U.S. 715, 722-23, (1972).

Medical expert testimony would be need to be offered to demonstrate Dr. Geiszler either had his ability to know right from wrong destroyed from recreational Kaiju drifting or was acting under a delusional compulsion. Considering Dr. Geiszler went home, talked to a giant brain in a jar in his bedroom he named Alice before drifting, “delusional compulsion” sounds like a good argument. Moreover, the fact the Defendant secretly built a drone army with cloned Kaiju brains would take obsessive-compulsive behavior to a new level.

World on Fire

There is the possibility that Dr. Geiszler knew right from wrong and simply turned evil. This is most disturbing possibility, because it would mean that a hero turned into a villain. Eradicating all live on Earth is not something one does lightly. Dr. Geiszler spent ten years on his plan, which included acquiring a Kaiju brain, having a custom tank for it installed in his apartment, and building drift technology so he could commune with Alice. Those look like intentional actions, some of which were either done to develop a connection with Alice or feed an addiction to drifting with Alice.

Defending the an Indefensible Act 

There is no defense for the attempted genocide of humanity. However, that does not mean Dr. Geiszler should be denied a right to an attorney and a fair trial for his actions. The hallmark of a civil society is that the legal system treats anyone accused of a crime with due process of law. Granted, there is a Category 5 amount of evidence against Geiszler, but he deserves his day in court.

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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, the ABA Web 100 for Best Legal Blog and Podcast categories, 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.