Justice Roland Cole rejects insanity defense in decapitation murder case
PORTLAND, Maine: Roland A. Cole, one of seventeen justices of the Maine Superior Court, rejected an insanity defense in determining the guilt of defendant Chad Gurney on Friday, February 4. Gurney was found guilty of killing Zoe Sarnacki and setting a fire in an attempted cover-up.
Under Maine law, according to Maine Assistant Attorney General Lisa Marchese, the insanity defense is only to be used for "the sickest of the sick". Marchese went on to say, "Chad Gurney is not a well man. Nobody has said that. But he didn’t kill Zoe Sarnacki because he was delusional or psychotic."
The case was heard without a jury.
Gurney's defense team argued for the insanity defense based on an accident Gurney sustained in 2005 while at college in Virginia when the 15-passenger van he was riding in with his lacrosse team crashed. At that time, he suffered a concussion as well as other injuries that led to 20 surgeries.
Justice Cole, however, was more swayed by evidence presented by the prosecuting team that Gurney's homicidal rage was a function of the fact that 18-year-old victim Sarnacki had had a romantic affair with someone else and, two days after the horrific crime, would have set off on a spiritual guest to Thailand. These circumstances led Justice Cole to conclude that the crime was primarily a "domestic violence homicide", rather than a homicide resulting from a psychotic break with reality, as the defense contended.