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Judge Rules Mobile Man Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity in Fatal Ax-Shovel Attack


In a recent trial, a Mobile, Alabama, man has been found not guilty by reason of insanity in the brutal ax and shovel murder of a woman in her home. The verdict brings closure to a tragic incident that shocked the community.


On the evening of June 15, 2023, 35-year-old Joshua Keith Smith entered the residence of 62-year-old Nancy Mae Miller and savagely attacked her with an ax and a shovel. Police arrived at the scene to find Miller deceased with multiple blunt force injuries. Smith, who was identified as the perpetrator, was apprehended shortly afterward.

Investigation and Trial

Investigators delved into Smith's history and mental health, uncovering a disturbing pattern of bizarre behavior and mental instability. He had no prior criminal record but had exhibited episodes of psychosis and delusions.

At the trial, the prosecution presented evidence of Smith's brutal assault on Miller, painting a gruesome picture of the violence inflicted. The defense, however, argued that Smith was not responsible for his actions due to a severe mental illness.

Expert Testimony

Forensic psychiatrists testified on behalf of both the prosecution and defense. The prosecution's expert concluded that Smith had antisocial personality disorder and was capable of understanding the wrongfulness of his actions. However, the defense's expert maintained that Smith was delusional, had a distorted sense of reality, and lacked the capacity to appreciate the consequences of his conduct.

Jury Deliberation and Verdict

After careful consideration of the evidence and expert testimony, the jury deliberated for several hours. Ultimately, they reached a unanimous verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.

Explanation of Insanity Defense

The insanity defense is a legal doctrine that allows a defendant to be excused from criminal responsibility if, at the time of the offense, they were suffering from a severe mental illness that prevented them from understanding the nature and quality of their actions or from distinguishing between right and wrong.

In Alabama, the burden of proof for the insanity defense rests with the defendant. They must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that their mental illness deprived them of the capacity to commit the crime.

Court's Findings

The court found that Smith met the criteria for the insanity defense. It established that he had a long-standing history of mental illness, including delusions of persecution and grandiose beliefs. At the time of the attack, Smith was experiencing a psychotic episode that made him unable to comprehend the wrongfulness of his actions.

Consequences of Not Guilty Verdict

As a result of the not guilty verdict, Smith will not face criminal punishment for Miller's murder. Instead, he will be committed to a mental health facility for treatment until he is no longer a danger to himself or others.

Impact on the Community

The verdict has sparked a mixed reaction within the Mobile community. Some residents express relief that Smith will receive the mental health care he needs, while others are disappointed that he will not be held accountable for his crime.

Systemic Issues

The case highlights the challenges faced by the criminal justice system in addressing individuals with severe mental illness. It underscores the need for adequate mental health resources and support services to prevent tragedies like this from occurring in the future.


The Mobile man's acquittal by reason of insanity brings a bittersweet resolution to a heinous crime. It serves as a reminder of the profound impact mental illness can have on individuals and society as a whole. While justice may not have been served in a traditional sense, the verdict ensures that Smith will receive the treatment he needs to address his mental health concerns and reduce the risk of future violence.

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