The New York Criminal Law Blog

Crossdressing Bankrobber, Released in 2011, Tries to Decapitate Friend

The family of Aston Barth, 33, got an unwanted surprise on Christmas Eve - they discovered a corpse in his closet! The head of the deceased was wrapped in plastic bags, while the body was wrapped in blankets. The stunned family notified authorities, who determined that the body, which had been there for more than a week, was Jason Campbell, 35, reports the Daily News.

When questioned by the police, Barth maintained that he did not want to face the death penalty. After being notified that New York no longer employs capital punishment, nor have they for quite some time, Barth confessed to the murder. He reportedly told police that an argument led to him strangling his friend. He then tried, unsuccessfully, to decapitate the body with an axe. When that failed, the wrapped the body up and stored it in his closet.

Barth has previously made headlines for robbing a bank while dressed in his mother's clothing, reports the New York Post. In 2007, he robbed a bank at gunpoint, dressed in full drag, with makeup and accessories. Despite his enthusiasm for the disguise, he forgot one important detail: he was sporting facial hair. He was paroled for that offense in 2011.

As for the present offense, he has been charged with second degree murder. His mother reportedly said that her son was mentally ill and off of his medication. Even with a diagnosed disorder, the standard for the insanity defense in New York is difficult to meet. The defense must convince the jury that Barth suffered from a mental disease or defect and that as a result of that disease, he was either unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct or unable to conform his conduct to the law.

If his mother's statements are accurate, he has the "disease or defect" requirement fulfilled. From his statements to police about the death penalty, it seems that he was quite aware of the criminality of his conduct. Then again, his state of mind when talking to the police is irrelevant; his state of mind at the time of the murder determines his criminal culpability.

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