Prosecutors did not have to disprove a Somali immigrant's claim that he was insane when he killed his four children and attacked his wife in Louisville, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled Thursday.
It was up to Said Biyad, 49, to prove that he wasn't culpable in the 2006 attack because he had a mental illness or defect, the high court ruled. The ruling also upheld Biyad's life sentence handed down in 2011.
Prosecutors argued that Biyad was an angry and possessive man who slit the throats of his children following an argument with his wife in 2006. The children were ages 2 through 8.
Biyad's attorneys argued prosecutors had to disprove his insanity claim. Justice Mary Noble, writing for the court, said prosecutors weren't required to disprove the insanity defense, even though Biyad presented expert testimony at trial.
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"Appellant is thus incorrect that once he introduced evidence of his mental illness at the time of the crimes, the burden shifted to the commonwealth to prove that he was sane," Noble wrote. Instead, the issue is whether the trial judge was unreasonable in rejecting Biyad's insanity claim.
Biyad went through a bench trial to avoid the death penalty — meaning his guilt was determined solely by the judge, not a jury.
After twice telling police he killed the children, Biyad testified at trial that they were killed by a group of men in a blue Honda who had come to his home to extort money from him.
Biyad had told police he and his wife were fighting when she tried to push him out of their residence, according to court documents. Biyad then allegedly raped her and beat her with a hammer before she locked herself in a room. He also argued that an impostor claiming to be him confessed to the police.
Defense attorneys focused on Biyad's state of mind at the time of the killings and argued he wasn't responsible for his actions. One psychiatrist testified that Biyad was schizophrenic and couldn't appreciate the criminal nature of his acts.
A prosecution psychologist rebutted the testimony, saying Biyad showed no signs of psychotic behavior.
The trial had been delayed several times over questions of Biyad's mental competence.