Was Clayton Osbon, the JetBlue pilot, insane?
This question has been on the minds of many since Osbon was arrested on March 27 after having an in-flight meltdown. He had to be restrained by passengers after he began making incoherent statements, talking about religion, running up and down the aisle, and banging on doors.
Mental illness appears to be the culprit, which is why Osbon's attorney has notified the court that he plans to pursue the insanity defense should the prosecution move forward.
Congress has codified the insanity defense for the purposes of criminal prosecutions brought by the federal government. Under this statute, the defense must prove that:
[A]t the time of the commission of the acts constituting the offense, the defendant, as a result of a severe mental disease or defect, was unable to appreciate the nature and quality or the wrongfulness of his acts.
More specifically, the JetBlue pilot was insane if, at the time of the incident, he was suffering from a severe mental disease that prevented him from understanding that his behavior was wrong.
At this time, there is not enough public evidence to determine whether Clayton Osbon can successfully mount this defense. But, on a slightly related note, the judge has ordered him to undergo a psychiatric examination to determine whether he is currently competent to stand trial.
If that examination concludes that the JetBlue pilot is insane, then the trial will need to be postponed while he is treated. Such as a result may also compel prosecutors to drop or plead out the case.
- JetBlue pilot who had midair breakdown will plead insanity (MSNBC)
- Insanity Defense (FindLaw)
- JetBlue Pilot Charged with Federal Crimes (FindLaw Blotter)