Killer Kip Kinkel sues to get insanity plea

Federal court case says Springfield high school shooter was incompetent to stand trial

Convicted murderer Kip Kinkel is suing the head of a state correctional institution in federal court to change his plea to 'guilty but insane,' saying he wants serve his time 'incarcerated at the state mental hospital rather than state prison.'

Kinkel, 28, was 15 when he took three semi-automatic weapons and about 1,100 rounds of ammunition to Thurston High School in Springfield May 21, 1998, and began firing at students in the cafeteria, killing two and wounding 25 others. Before that, he shot his father in the head with a rifle and shot his mother six times in the garage of their home.

In September 1999, Kinkel entered a guilty plea to four counts of murder and 25 counts of attempted murder. Two months later he was sentenced to 111 years in prison.

On Aug. 4, Portland attorney Dennis N. Balske filed in U.S. District Court a writ of habeas corpus against Gerald Long, acting superintendent of the Oregon State Correctional Institution in Salem, seeking to change the his plea to guilty but insane, which could alter his sentence.

No court date has been set for the case. Long and the state have not responded to the lawsuit.

During his trial, Kinkel's attorneys presented evidence that he had heard voices in his head since he was 12, and that some of the voices advocated violence against others. A mental evaluation by medical experts also confirmed that Kinkel believed the voices had instructed him to commit the Thurston High School shootings.

Kinkel told doctors that he had to obey the voices. He also believed that the voices were coming from a chip that the government had implanted in his head.

In his federal court petition, Balske wrote that Kinkel was not trying to 'evade responsibility for his actions. His plea was and always will be guilty - but his claim here, as in his post-conviction action, is that he is guilty but insane and should be incarcerated at the state mental hospital rather than state prison.'

The habeas corpus claim was filed, Balske wrote, because Kinkel's trial attorneys failed to order a mental evaluation 'to determine petitioner's competency to stand trial, his ability to aid and assist in his own defense and his fitness to proceed by reason of incapacity due to a mental disease or defect.'

If that had happened, he claimed in the petition, it would have 'revealed that petitioner was mentally incompetent to stand trial, mentally unable to aid and assist in his own defense, unfit to proceed by reason of incapacity due to a mental disease or defect, and mentally unable to knowingly, voluntarily and intelligently waive his constitutional rights.'

Kinkel sought a new trial in June 2007, saying his attorneys should have used the insanity defense. A Marion County judge denied the claim in August 2007. Oregon's Court of Appeals rejected Kinkel's claim in January 2011 and affirmed the Marion County court's decision.