Capitol Slayings: Building an Insanity Plea

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If he ever gets out of hospital, where he remains in stable condition, Russell Weston Jr. will be walking straight into a courtroom. The man accused of killing two police officers in the Capitol Friday had his case moved to federal court Monday, and the charges could carry the death penalty. It's time for Weston's lawyers to start thinking about his defense -- specifically, a mental health defense. "The more he's able to show he's truly whacked out, the better case he may have," says TIME legal correspondent Adam Cohen.

The Montana resident is a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic who believes, say authorities, that the government planted listening devices in his teeth and land mines in his yard; that he was cloned at birth; that President Clinton, another clone, participated in the Kennedy assassination. But that may not be enough; ever since the John Hinckley case, courts have become steadily less sympathetic to insanity claims. "The mental illness defense has become a cliché," says Cohen. "Hinckley focused a lot of attention on that issue. Now Weston will have to prove he didn't understand the nature of what he was doing." In front of a D.C. jury, that's going to be a tough act to pull off.