In a hearing last week, a local judge ruled that accused Waffle House shooter Travis Reinking is not competent to stand trial. It’s a twist in the case that many Nashville residents found surprising.
In an effort to help Nashville understand the judge’s controversial decision, Raybin & Weissman criminal defense attorney David Raybin sat for an interview with News Channel 5 correspondent Jonquil Newland.
First and foremost, Raybin noted that competency to stand trial is a moving target.
“It determines whether the person presently possesses the capacity to defend himself in the court of law,” said Raybin. “The judge made a decision to send [Travis Reinking] to a mental facility here in Nashville which is specifically designed to address competency issues and restore people to competency with medication and therapy and the like.”
As you may recall, Reinking is alleged to have opened fire in an Antioch Waffle House on April 22, a mass shooting incident that took the lives of four innocent victims and injured several others.
What’s Next for Travis Reinking?
If past history is any guide, it’s likely that will Reinking will eventually stand trial, though he’s expected to be at Middle Tennessee Mental Health Institute for six months or more.
“In the vast majority of instances, people are restored to competency and they do come back to trial,” said Raybin during the interview with Newland.
If he does stand trial, it’s likely that Reinking’s attorneys will attempt to get him acquitted by reason of insanity, given the evidence and multitude of witnesses.
“[But] it’s very rare to have a successful insanity defense in Tennessee,” added Raybin. “What the lawyers will probably argue is that while he’s okay now with medication and therapy, he wasn’t that way at the time of the crime, therefore he was insane at that moment.”
In an opinion piece Raybin wrote for The Tennessean in May, he noted that mounting an insanity defense is an uphill battle, as “insanity is hard to comprehend and even harder to prove in court. [People] can accept broken arms and broken legs but have a hard time accepting a broken brain.”
As for whether Reinking has a mental disorder that qualifies for an insanity defense, reports about his behavior make it possible—even probable—that he suffers from paranoid schizophrenia. (As noted in The Tennessean, “paranoid delusions resulting from schizophrenia may cause violent episodes where the person seeks to ‘destroy’ those tormenting him.”)
The Legal Test for Insanity
In order to sustain an insanity defense, Reinking and his attorneys would first need to establish by clear and convincing evidence that he was suffering from a severe mental disease or defect during the shooting.
They would next need to show that Reinking was “unable to appreciate the nature or wrongfulness” of his acts because of the mental disease or defect, which can be difficult to assess as “paranoid schizophrenia can produce very ‘real’ delusions…. [And] in the hands of a skilled attorney, the exculpatory force of insane delusions can be profound, swaying a jury to acquit in even the most horrific case,” wrote Raybin in The Tennessean.
At Raybin & Weissman We’ll Continue to Follow Developments in the Case
Regardless, the Antioch Waffle House shooter case is one that is likely to produce new twists and turns in the coming months and years.
In fact, the August News Channel 5 interview was not the first time David has been called upon to explain a controversial development. Back in April David explained why bond was set at $2 million after Reinking was charged with four counts of criminal homicide. He also related what would likely transpire if Reinking or his family posted the $200,000 (10 percent of bond) that could theoretically allow the accused to walk out of jail.
As you might expect, Raybin and his criminal defense team plan to continue closely following Travis Reinking’s case, having successfully defended many citizens who have suffered from severe mental disorders.
In the meantime, if you or a family member has been charged with a crime we encourage you to call us at (615) 256-6666. At Raybin & Weissman we understand how confusing and intimidating the legal process can be. We work with our clients every step of the way to provide the guidance needed to provide the strongest defense decisions possible.