Attorney: Schaffhausen plea change may reflect strong evidence - KMSP-TV

INTERVIEW: Schaffhausen plea change may reflect overwhelming evidence

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The attorney for Aaron Schaffhausen says his client may change his plea to guilty to killing his three daughters tomorrow afternoon, and FOX 9 News asked a defense attorney how that would affect the case.

Schaffhausen is facing three counts of first-degree intentional homicide in the July 10 deaths of his daughters, 11-year-old Amara, 8-year-old Sophie and 5-year-old Cecilia.

"I think that we're going to change the plea tomorrow, just have an insanity phase" of the trial, defense attorney John Kucinski said in a brief phone interview Tuesday.

Kucinski would not explain Tuesday why his client may change his plea, adding that the possible plea is "subject to people changing their minds in the morning."

In Wisconsin, there are two phases to a trial of not-guilty by reason of insanity, which is Schaffhausen's current plea. The first portion would determine whether Schaffhausen did commit the crimes. If Schaffhausen were found guilty, the second portion of the trial would determine if he was sane at the time of the murders.

By pleading insanity, the burden of proof will be on the defense to show by a preponderance of evidence that Schaffhausen had a mental disease or defect at the time of the crimes. They also must established that, as a result, he lacked substantial capacity to appreciate that what he did was wrong or couldn't control his impulse.

"Anybody who engages in some of these enormously horrendous crimes, we automatically think -- and probably correctly so -- that obviously, there's something wrong mentally with the person," said David Schultz, a University of Wisconsin law professor emeritus. "But whether that meets the legal standard for this insanity defense is something else again. It is a relatively difficult standard to meet."

Even if a jury agrees Schaffhausen is not mentally responsible for the crimes, that doesn't mean he would be a free man, of course. He would likely be committed to a maximum security mental hospital. The question is: For how long?

Kevin DeVore, a criminal defense attorney with Larson & King, explains how a change in plea may impact the case.

Watch the video for more information.

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