Beware the Slander Man

This blog has featured some of the strangest defenses ever presented. Whether they worked or not varies with the case. But a curious defense presented recently is fitting in the rather curious case of the Slender Man assault. You may have heard of this crime. In 2014, a twelve-year old, Payton Leutner, was stabbed 19 times by her friends and left in a park to die. She crawled to get held and was eventually found by a cyclist. She had spent the night with her best friends (or so she thought), and they encouraged her to go to the park with them, where they carried out their plan to murder her. They initiated a game of hide and seek with Leutner, when Weier pinned her to the ground in order to stab her. She could not bring herself to do it, and then order Geyser to stab her – who did so, 19 times. Her survival is miraculous, with two injuries a millimeter away from both her heart and a major artery. The two friends, Anissa Weier and Morgan Geyser, claimed they did it out of fear of something called the Slender Man.

The Slender Man is a fictional character who is said to cause amnesia, paranoid behavior, and bouts of coughing. He stalks children and hides in the forest. In this case, Weier and Geyser claim to have believed that the Slender Man was real and they were to become his followers and prove their loyalty to him – otherwise, he would harm their families. The only way they could become his followers, they believed, was to murder someone. Their defense has ranged from being incompetent to stand trial, to oppositional defiant disorder, schizophrenia, schizotypy, insanity, and now, being under a delusion, which is somewhat different. Both girls have since been deemed competent to stand trial, and both have officially filed a plea of “not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.” As of August 21, 2017, Weier pled guilty to attempted second-degree homicide, as well as not guilty by reason of mental disease. The latter issue is currently being determined by a jury. Weier is being tried as an adult, in spite of her incredibly young age at the time of the crime. Geyser’s trial is set for October.

The girls’ attorneys are trying every defense they can think of, most likely because of the rather controversial decision of the courts to continue trying the girls as adults. In 1995, the state of Wisconsin changed the law where adult courts can acquire jurisdiction over juveniles to children as young as 10 – one of the only laws of its kind in America. If either is convicted in adult criminal court, they face 65 years in prison. There is a chance they could be found ‘delinquent,’ or convicted in juvenile court, whereby they would be released when they turned 18. Most research shows – and the Supreme Court agrees – that juveniles are prone to less rational decisions, poor impulse control, and an inability to grasp future consequences as compared to adults. The Wisconsin Law intends to punish children who have committed previous crimes, but its effect is also an indictment on the American justice system, which would rather incarcerate individuals with significant mental and developmental disorders instead of offering treatment or other options to house them. The jury may agree that Weier suffers from a significant disorder and allow her to spend her sentence in a mental health hospital. Geyser still has a few weeks to solidify her defense strategy.

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