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Jayme Closs Kidnapping Suspect Jake Patterson Won’t Be Able to Use Insanity Defense: Experts

By Zachary Stieber

Jake Patterson, who police said confessed to kidnapping a Wisconsin teenager after killing her parents, would have trouble using the insanity defense during his upcoming trial, experts said.

Patterson, 21, is accused of abducting Jayme Closs, 13, from her home in Barron after shooting her parents dead on Oct. 15, 2018. He told officers he decided to kidnap Jayme after seeing her board a school bus.

Patterson, police said, confessed to holding Jayme captive for 88 days before she escaped from his cabin in Gordon on Jan. 10. He was found the same day driving in the area and arrested.

While his attorneys haven’t said they would try arguing Patterson was insane, experts said if they did, it would be a tough sell.

Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald speaks during a news conference about 13-year-old Jayme
Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald during a news conference about 13-year-old Jayme Closs, who went missing after her parents were found dead in their home in Barron, Wis., on Oct. 17, 2018. She was found on Jan. 10, 2019. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP, File)

“This crime is so despicable it’s almost impossible for an insanity defense to work here,” Jack Levin, a longtime criminologist and a professor emeritus at Northeastern University in Boston and co-director of the university’s Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict, told the Appleton Post-Crescent.

The confession that police described outlined Patterson’s meticulous plans to carry out the killings and abduction, which runs against any argument that he was insane.

Defendants who try for the insanity defense have to convince a jury that they were suffering from mental illness at the time of the crime and try to prove that the illness prevented them from obeying the law.

According to Levin, jurors are typically against the defense. “Juries hate [the insanity defense],” he said. “They feel like they have to hold a person accountable, and think if the insanity defense applies, no one is being held accountable.”

Jake Patterson's cabin in Wisconsin
The cabin where 13-year-old Jayme Closs was allegedly held by Jake Thomas Patterson is surrounded by law enforcement vehicles in the town Gordon, Wis., on Jan. 12, 2019. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP)

Greg O’Meara, a former Milwaukee County prosecutor who worked on the case against serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer, who tried and failed to use the insanity defense, said that Patterson didn’t appear to be insane.

“You don’t win these cases very often,” he said. “The degree of planning shows (Patterson’s) in control.”

Patterson is due in court next on March 27 for an arraignment.

Whatever defense Patterson’s attorneys settle on, they’ll struggle to prevent him from being convicted, according to Aaron Keller, a law expert who hosts “The Daily Debrief” on the Law & Crime Network.

“Patterson is as close to 100 percent screwed as a defendant can be without actually pleading guilty,” Keller said in an article published on the Law & Crime website.

Law & Crime Network host Julie Rendelman said Patterson’s attorneys should explore every option, including any potential plea deals but also including the insanity defense.

Jake Patterson appears for his preliminary hearing, at Barron County Circuit Court in Barron, Wis., on Feb. 6, 2019. (T’xer Zhon Kha/The Post-Crescent via AP, Pool)

Keller and Rendelman said that Patterson’s alleged planning of the kidnapping and murders, in addition to holding Jayme for three months, severely undermine the insanity defense.

In addition to taking days to kidnap Jayme after seeing her on the bus, abandoning two efforts in the process, Patterson took steps to try to avoid detection, including shaving his head before carrying out the alleged crimes to avoid leaving hair at the scene, according to Barron County Sheriff Chris Fitzgerald.

“Logically speaking, if for example, as is alleged here, the defendant changes his license plate to avoid detection in a murder and kidnapping, it’s fairly clear he’s aware that what he is doing is wrong, which flies in the face of an insanity defense argument,” said Rendelman, a defense lawyer and former prosecutor.

A plea deal may be more likely if Patterson agrees to take full responsibility for what he did but Barron County prosecutors would have to accept a deal.

The defense “will have to try to convince the prosecutors to give him some sort of deal to spare the public and court and prosecutors a trial,” said Bob Bianchi, another network host and a former prosecutor. “It will be a very hard argument.”