California Appellate Court Orders Lower Court to Consider Mental Health Facility Recommendation in Defendant’s Motion for Early Release
Recent Cases in Law and Neuroscience, Curated by the Center for Law, Brain & Behavior and the Shen Neurolaw Lab with support from the Dana Foundation
In December 2017, Jacob Kirkendall was charged with attempted murder after open firing on a Big Sur firefighter in Big Sur, California, and was facing a potential life sentence for his crimes. Kirkendall’s defense rested primarily on the fact that Kirkendall suffered from severe brain damage; Kirkendall was involved in an electrocution accident several years prior to his offense, during which his counsel stated that “the electric current burned areas of [Kirkendall’s brain].” According to his counsel, the accident caused Kirkendall permanent brain damage to the areas of his brain responsible for judgement. More so, his defense argued that during the time of the shooting, Kirkendall was “having a manic episode and a mental breakdown.” In February 2019, Kirkendall entered a plea deal. Because of evidence citing Kirkendall’s brain damage and cognitive state at the time he committed his crime, Kirkendall was court ordered to spend a minimum of one year in a mental health facility in San Diego followed by up to 14 years of formal probation in lieu of a prison sentence.
The Monterey County Superior Court denied Kirkendall’s early release in May 2020, despite the facility’s recommendation that he was fit for release. His counsel then filed a writ of habeas corpus to the California Sixth District Court of Appeal on June 12, 2020, and on July 2nd the Court of Appeal issued a writ of mandamus to the Superior Court commanding them to either vacate their previous ruling, or to conduct a new hearing that takes into account the mental health facilities’ recommendation.
Key Words: attempted murder, brain damage, plea deal, mental health facility, writ of mandamus, California
This post is 17th 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.