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DA wants “guilty but insane” verdicts in Oklahoma

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SHAWNEE, Okla. - The Pottawatomie County district attorney was relieved, to say the least, when a judge ordered an admitted killer back to a mental facility for the next year.

But, District Attorney Richard Smothermon acknowledges that feeling of relief will only be temporary.

Jerrod Murray, acquitted of murder because a judge deemed him insane, will be up for another hearing on his competency next year.

"He told two doctors that if he were released he would not guarantee he wouldn't do this again, and then he told people in his cell that if released he would do it again and target the victim's family," Smothermon said. "That tells me he should never be released."

Murray, 21, admitted to killing fellow East Central University student Generro Sanchez in Dec. 2013, when both were 18 years old.

Murray offered Sanchez $20 to take him to Wal-Mart but, once in the car, Murray held Sanchez at gunpoint, forcing him to drive to a rural road while Sanchez reportedly pleaded for his life.

Murray shot Sanchez in the head three times, killing him.

There was talk he could walk free, just months after he was acquitted, after one psychiatrist wrote in his evaluation that Murray "does not presently meet the statutory criteria as being presently mental ill. While his index offense was of a violent nature, given that his mental condition is stable, he is not considered to be a present danger to the public."

"He's literally getting away with murder," Smothermon said. "And, that's shocking to me."

Now, Smothermon wants to change state law, so a judge can hand down a verdict of "guilty but insane," something he said other states have already done.

Convicts would begin their sentence in a state mental hospital.

Once deemed competent, the convict would serve out the rest of their term in a state prison.

"It gives accountability, and it gives justice, and it gives a certainty to the family," he said. "For the foreseeable future, every year, we're going to rip the scab off of her, and I can't even imagine how horrific it is to each year face the possibility that the man who killed your son could get out of jail."

NewsChannel 4 could not reach Murray's attorney for comment.

But, criminal defense attorney David McKenzie said he has a problem with a "guilty but insane" verdict.

"It goes against what we stand for and our due process of law," he said. "We're punishing somebody for something they can't help, because they're mentally ill."

McKenzie said he understands the closure the word "guilty" can give to the family of a victim or the general public, but he maintains putting the mentally ill in jail is fundamentally wrong.

"If you're so insane that you don't know what you're doing, then you're being punished for something that you ought not be responsible for," he said. "We ought not to put them in prison. We need to get them help."

McKenzie notes that "not guilty by insanity" is rarely used in cases across the United States.

Further, he said a psychiatrist doesn't just "open the doors" for someone who has found not guilty by reason of insanity.

A judge must approve the decision.