But one thing hasn’t changed: He still argues that he was mentally ill at the time of the shootings and that the trial court never should have accepted his guilty plea without ordering a mental health exam.
He wants out of state prison and into the state mental hospital.
Kinkel was 15 when he gunned down his parents, two Thurston High School students and injured a dozen other students on May 21, 1998, in Springfield.
He’s now 28 and living in a cell at the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem.
“By seeking relief here, he does not seek to evade responsibility for his actions. His plea was and always will be guilty,” wrote his lawyer, Dennis N. Balske, in a lawsuit filed this month against the state in U.S. District Court. “But his claim here … is that he is guilty but insane and should be incarcerated at the state mental hospital rather than state prison.”
Kinkel was sentenced in November 1999 to 111 years without the possibility of parole for four counts of murder and 26 counts of attempted murder, making him the first juvenile imprisoned for life in Oregon.
In arguing for a new trial, his lawyer contends that the state appellate courts unfairly relied on statements made by Kinkel’s trial lawyers, who said his doctors had no reason to believe the teen wasn’t competent to enter a plea.
The Court of Appeals found that Kinkel’s trial lawyers, Richard Mullen and Mark Sabitt, were both experienced attorneys.
The state appellate court cited a statement by Mullen, for example, in which he said: “When I met with (Kinkel) he seemed to be calm, he seemed to understand the conversation we were having.”
Balske argues that the appellate courts should have considered other evidence provided, including that Kinkel was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, hallucinations and impaired neurologic function.
“You can’t escape review of the evidence by citing one piece of the evidence that isn’t correct,” Balske said.
Tony Green, spokesman for Oregon Attorney General John Kroger, said his office just received a copy of Kinkel’s habeas corpus petition for a new trial.
But Green added, “We have argued up to this point successfully that Mr. Kinkel is not entitled to a new trial.”
In Kinkel’s petition in federal court, Balske argues that Kinkel’s trial court lawyers failed to request a competency hearing or alert the trial court of Kinkel’s deteriorating mental health when he was removed from powerful anti-psychotic medications before they proceeded with the guilty plea.
The federal petition outlines the evidence that the appellate courts should have examined: jail treatment records showing that Kinkel was having hallucinations and begging to restart his medications and a doctor’s treatment records revealing Kinkel’s mental deterioration.
Less than 30 days before the guilty plea, a defense investigator told Kinkel’s trial lawyer that the teenager “was much worse … so agitated that he would pace, hit one wall, turn, pace to the next wall, hit it, etc. He was in anguish and it was disconcerting to me,” the petition said.
Balske also pointed to renowned OHSU child psychiatrist Dr. William Sack, who gave his opinion that Kinkel didn’t enter his guilty plea voluntarily.
Sack said Kinkel’s paranoia compelled him to hide his illness. “He was terrified of being labeled mentally ill because others would discover that he was ‘nuts,'” the petition said.
Kinkel’s transition at age 24 from the Secure Intensive Treatment Program at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn to state prison has been difficult, although he receives continued support from his sister, his lawyer said.
“He had therapy, regular psychiatric and psychological care at MacLaren,” Balske said. “At state prison, the medical care is tougher. It’s more Spartan. It’s been a tougher road for him