Oregon District Court Denies Habeas Corpus for Man Arguing that Neurological Deficits Impaired his Judgment

Justin Metschan-Baertlein (link)

On December 21, 2020, an Oregon District Court recommended denial of Justin Metschan-Baertlein’s habeas corpus petition after prosecution scheduled a retrial following a mistrial due to a deadlocked jury. Metschan-Baertlein had argued that continued prosecution would violate the Fifth Amendment’s Double Jeopardy Clause and that the trial judge erred in failing to attempt to break the jury’s impasse.

22-year-old Metschan-Baertlein was tried in February 2019 with charges of online corruption of a minor; luring a minor; and attempted rape after being apprehended through a sting operation in which the Washington County Sheriff’s Office posed as a minor online and arranged to meet suspects.

At trial, Metschan-Baertlein argued that he had been entrapped and that he lacked requisite intent. He also provided expert testimony from a neuropsychologist testifying that he had a neurological condition that impaired his perception of risk and social cues.

The prosecution argued that the evidence proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Metschan-Baertlein had knowledge of the girl’s age and intended to engage in sexual activity, regardless of any impairment in judgement due to a neurological condition. The prosecutor further asserted that arguing entrapment is contradictory to arguing lack of intent because it is an admission of guilt.

Despite the defense’s objection that the prosecution misstated the law of entrapment, the court found that the alleged misstatement did not prejudice the jury or cause the deadlock. The court further stated that even if the argument was improper, the proper remedy would be to proceed with a new trial. Consequently, the court recommended denial of the habeas petition.

Citation: Metschan-Baertlein v. Wash. Cty. Cir.Ct., 2020 WL 8361987 (D. Or. Dec. 21, 2020)

Key Words: Oregon, neurological conditions, habeas corpus, young adult

This post is the 98th post as part of an ongoing Center for Law, Brain & Behavior (CLBB) series tracking the latest developments in law and neuroscience cases. To see previous posts about recent cases, see the full case archive on the CLBB website. To see updates on legal scholarship, see the Neurolaw News, hosted by the MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience. This project is made possible through support of the Dana Foundation.

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at Mass General Hospital, Harvard Medical School

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