Champagne said Angela Ball filed a notice of the defense strategy last week. As a result, each side will hire a psychiatrist to examine the defendant. If the prosecution expert concludes that Ball was sane at the time of the killing, Champagne said, the case could go to trial as early as this fall.
If both experts agree that she was legally insane, Ball will be committed to a psychiatric institution for at least a year, Champagne said. Thereafter, her fitness for release would be reviewed every two years.
Under New York State law, a person raising the insanity defense must prove that “as a result of a mental disease or defect, he lacked substantial capacity to know or appreciate either:
“1. The nature and consequence of such conduct; or
“2. That such conduct was wrong.”
Champagne said it is a tough legal burden to meet. “Basically, it boils down to whether a person can appreciate right from wrong,” he said.
Indeed, the New York Times reported last year that few defendants in the state succeed when raising the insanity defense. “Of 5,910 murder cases completed in the last decade statewide, only seven defendants have been found at trial to be not responsible by reason of mental disease or defect, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services,” the article said.
Ball, who is twenty-nine, pleaded not guilty in January to charges of second-degree murder and first-degree assault. She is accused of beating Ward Wilbur with a baseball bat and then stabbing him with a knife in an apartment in Saranac Lake on the morning of November 25. Wilbur was sixty-five.
The Adirondack Daily Enterprise reported that Ball told police she and Wilbur had lived together in a cabin outside the village, but the relationship deteriorated after the couple stopped having sex. “Ward’s libido wasn’t working and he became very angry over it,” Ball said in the signed statement.
Ball said Wilbur would become aggressive at times. According to the Enterprise, she told police that he would rip her clothes off, force her to have sex, and threaten her with knives and axes. On the morning of the killing, she told police, Wilbur showed up at her apartment with a steak knife, grabbed her by the hair, and threatened to kill her, according to the Enterprise. She said she beat him with the bat and then stabbed him repeatedly in self-defense.
Questions about Ball’s mental health were raised in another Enterprise article that linked to a pair of YouTube videos in which Ball describes her painting of a farmhouse where she says she was molested as a child. In the videos, she claims to have discovered, after the fact, images in the painting of famous people such as George Washington. Abraham Lincoln, and Mother Teresa. However, the images are not apparent to the viewer. The videos can be seen here and here.
Public Defender Thomas Soucia could not be reached for comment today.
Photo: Angela Ball after her arrest.