© August 9, 2011
A man found not guilty by reason of insanity in the December 2009 killing of his 73-year-old mother does not have a claim in the woman’s estate, a judge ruled Monday in the first case of its kind in Virginia.
The executors of Carolyn Osman’s will filed a civil suit in Circuit Court in September asking a judge to declare Michael Osman a “slayer.” The state’s so-called slayer statute prevents a person from benefiting from his or her victim’s wealth. A court can rule a person a slayer if it finds enough evidence of murder or manslaughter – even without a conviction.
Michael Osman, 44, first showed signs of mental illness at age 6 and had been in and out of hospitals for more than two decades for delusions and psychotic episodes, his attorney, Ros Willis said. He had stopped taking medication for paranoid schizophrenia at the time he beat and strangled Carolyn Osman to death.
Michael Osman believed his mother was out to get him, Willis said, when in fact she supported him financially and planned to take him to traffic court the morning she died.
There is no evidence he intended to kill Carolyn Osman, Willis argued.
Drew Kubovcik, an attorney for Carolyn Osman’s estate, argued that an insanity finding is not an acquittal. Michael Osman was committed to a state hospital for the killing.
Although no similar case has come before a Virginia court, other states have addressed the issue. In 2009, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that the slayer statute applied to a man who was insane when he killed his mother and stepbrother – and he was not entitled to a share of the estate.
“A wrongful act is not made lawful just because the person is insane,” Kubovcik said.
Judge H. Thomas Padrick agreed. Virginia law is clear, he said.
“Even though he is not guilty by reason of insanity, he is a slayer,” the judge said.
Michael Osman has 30 days to appeal, Kubovcik said after the ruling.
Willis declined to comment.
Padrick ruled in a separate hearing Monday that Michael Osman will remain in a state hospital for another year. He will be re-evaluated to determine whether he should be released when he returns to court next August.
Kristin Davis, (757) 222-5131, firstname.lastname@example.org
As always, please consult with a Virginia attorney about legal issues raised in this article. Every situation is unique.
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