The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Mom Who Tossed Baby Off Parking Garage Pleads Postpartum Insanity

A mother accused of doing the unthinkable is now pleading the predictable. Sonia Hermosillo, 32, of La Habra, is accused of tossing her 7-month-old son off of a parking garage in August 2011. Her attorney argues that the entire incident was caused by postpartum psychosis, and as a result, her client is not guilty by reason of insanity, reports the Orange County Register.

Before you completely dismiss the argument, note that it took three psychologists’ evaluations to determine that she was competent to stand trial - a much lower bar than sanity. The first two evaluators disagreed with each other, necessitating a tiebreaker. Competency is described as having the ability to understand the proceedings and assist with one’s defense. Her attorney previously described her condition as “marginally coherent.”

On the other hand, prosecutors argue that she knew exactly what she was doing. She took the time to remove her son's protective helmet - he had a congenital birth defect that affected the shape of his skull - and she even walked into the hospital and had her parking validated after killing her son. She returned hours later and was arrested, according to the Register.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for February 22. At that point, if all parties are prepared, the case will be scheduled for a bifurcated trial. When insanity is pled by a defendant, the trial his held in two stages - guilt and sanity. Each is its own mini-trial. If the defendant is convicted in the first trial, the defense then tries to prove insanity at the subsequent trial.

California follows the M'Naughten Test for insanity, which means that the defendant is legally insane and not responsible for her actions if, due to a mental disease or defect, she either did not know what she was doing when she did it, or she could not distinguish right from wrong.

Hermosillo's husband does not believe she should be held accountable for their son's death. Days after his son passed, he stated at a press conference that she had previously been hospitalized for postpartum depression and asked the public to withhold judgment, stating, "she didn't know what she was doing."

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