The New York Criminal Law Blog

Renato Seabra Trial for Murder, Mutilation; Will He Prove Insanity?

In life, there are many different levels of crazy. There’s the odd blogger than can quote obscure lines from mid-1990s rap and screams “SPRING BREAK” in the middle of December. There are mentally impaired crack addicts living on park benches. And then there’s the guy that cut off his lover’s testicles in a fit of homophobic rage.

While crazy may be in the eye of the beholder, legal insanity is not. Insanity seems to be what 22-year-old Renato Seabra will have to show after he allegedly cut off his 65-year-old lover Carlos Castro’s testicles with a corkscrew. Jury selection begins on Wednesday. After that, Seabra’s attorneys will have to convince them that their client was insane at the time of the murder and mutilation.

So far, Seabra's actions have gone a long way towards validating that theory. According to the New York Post, he told officers that he was trying to escape the "virus" of homosexuality, that Castro's testicles "were the demons, and he needed to cut it out" and that he made the world "a better place" by castrating Mr. Castro.

While the prosecution bears the burden of proving that Seabra was the man that killed the victim, it will be up to Seabra's defense team to prove that he was insane at the time of the crime. New York follows the Model Penal Code test for insanity. This rule, which was drafted by a panel of legal experts, provides:

"a person is not responsible for criminal conduct if at the time of such conduct as a result of mental disease or defect he lacks substantial capacity either to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or to conform his conduct to the requirements of the law."

The rule requires a diagnosis of a mental disease or defect, which so far has not been reported. Then again, finding a defense expert that will testify that he has something wrong with him probably won't be a difficult task.

He'll also have to show that his mental illness either prevented him from understanding that testicular removal was a criminal act, or that the urge to kill and castrate Mr. Castro was so strong that he was powerless to control himself.

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