Richard Rojas, the man who killed a teenage tourist and injured dozens of pedestrians when he drove his car through Times Square, was exonerated Wednesday because he was mentally ill at the time.
A New York jury agreed with Rojas’s defense that he was mentally unstable during the 2017 rampage, meaning he is now likely to be committed to a psychiatric hospital instead of a lengthy prison sentence.
The jury had no doubt that 31-year-old Rojas was driving a car that crashed into a crowd of pedestrians on May 18, 2017. and 23 assault charges he faced.
Although it is rare for a judge or jury to agree with a defendant’s insanity defense, this is not entirely unprecedented.
Here are a few other cases in the US where evidence of insanity outweighed guilt in different cases:
Lorena Bobbitt made national headlines when she cut off her then-husband John Wayne Bobbitt’s penis with a kitchen knife in 1993.
Then, at the age of 24, Lorena testified that she attacked her husband in their Virginia apartment after he came home drunk and tried to rape her.
Lorena, who faced up to 20 years for intentionally injuring herself, was eventually found not guilty due to insanity. She was ordered to undergo a 45-day examination period at a government hospital and was then discharged.
“How can you regret something that wasn’t planned?” Lorena said in an interview with Segodnya in 2019. “You have to understand, I was out of my mind.”
John Wayne’s penis was reattached after a 10 hour operation and he went on to have a successful porn career.
John Hinckley Jr.
The man who shot and wounded President Ronald Reagan in 1981 was released from judicial review just last week after decades in a Washington mental hospital.
John Hinckley Jr., accused of attempting to assassinate the 40th President, was acquitted on the grounds of insanity.
His lawyers claimed that Hinckley was obsessed with Taxi Driver and its lead actress, Jodie Foster. At one point in the film, the protagonist tried to assassinate a presidential candidate.
A shooting outside a DC hotel left Reagan press secretary James Brady partially paralyzed. Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahunty were also wounded.
An Iowa teenager was found not guilty by reason of insanity in 2014 for beating his 5-year-old stepbrother after he testified that he thought he was killing a goblin.
Cody Metzker-Madsen, then 17 years old, was charged with first-degree murder in connection with the death of Dominic Elkins.
The body of a young boy was found at the bottom of a ravine near their home in Logan, and an autopsy showed that he had died from blunt force trauma to the head and drowned.
During the trial, Metzker-Madsen testified that he saw goblins fighting people he knew. He also said he didn’t realize it was his foster brother when he started hitting him with a brick and sticking his head underwater.
The judge ordered that Metzker-Madsen be placed in a public health facility after the trial.
Louisiana resident Chelsea Thornton was declared insane after she killed two of her young children.
Thornton, 28, was charged with shooting her 3-year-old son and drowning her 4-year-old daughter in her apartment in 2012.
She faced life in prison without parole before a judge ruled for insanity protection.
Texas mom Andrea Yates confessed to drowning her five young children in a bathtub in 2001.
Yates was originally convicted of the death murders of Noah, John, Paul, Luke, and Mary, all under 7 years old, in 2002, but the case was appealed and eventually overturned.
In 2006, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity and committed to a Texas mental hospital.
Yates has repeatedly waived her annual right to a hearing to determine if she is eligible for release, most recently in April.