On April 11, 2012, The Historical Society for the District of Columbia Circuit and the Litigation Section of the District of Columbia Bar are hosting an event that may serve to trigger the memories of many DC Circuit lawyers. The event, “Madness or Badness: Duran and the Evolution of the Insanity Defense in the D.C. Circuit”, will discuss a notorious case that took place in the 1990’s, during the Clinton era.
Francisco Duran was convicted of attempting to assassinate President Bill Clinton, after a two-week long trial. During his trial, the insanity defense was invoked. The defense was rejected by the court.
On October 24, 1994, Duran fired 29 shots through the White House fence to remove, what he claimed was a “mist” that loomed over the White House. Duran infamously claimed to be God on several occasions and his defense attorneys presented the argument that he was insane.
Was he insane? Or was he just a fame-seeking, government-hating criminal? Was he mad, or was he bad?
Prosecutors argued the latter. They argued that his mental illness was concocted and the plan to murder was premeditated.
Defense counsel presented testimony of expert witnesses; psychiatrists who claimed that Duran was a paranoid schizophrenic who thought he was saving the White House and the world from what he believed to be a mist attached to an alien in the Colorado mountains by an umbilical cord.
Prosecutors, however, presented over 60 witnesses, who claimed that Duran was an anarchist and had expressed hatred towards President Clinton on numerous occasions.
At the free event, participants will observe a reenactment of the closing arguments on Duran’s insanity defense by both sides. The arguments will be reenacted by the very attorneys who initially made them, back in 1996. The reenactment will be followed by a panel discussion on the Congressional changes to the insanity defense after the John Hinckley trial. A reception will follow after the program.
The event will take place from 4:30 p.m to 6:00 p.m. at the Ceremonial Courtroom, 6th Floor, E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse on 3rd Street & Constitution Avenue, N.W.