Kristiansen was in a halfway house. He left one day to
visit his wife, and called in later claiming to be too sick to come back.
After 6 days the police went to his wife's house and arrested him. He was
charged with escaping from custody.
At trial, Kristiansen argued that he was a cocaine addict
and lacked the mental faculties to have any willful intent to escape.
Kristiansen offered an expert witness (Knowles)
who testified that Kristiansen was psychotic and under the influence of
drugs at the time of his escape. Kristiansen asked Knowles if an
individual in Kristiansen's mental state would have the ability to
appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts?
The prosecution objected to the testimony on the grounds
that it required the expert witness to comment on Kristiansen's
The Trial Judge excluded the testimony about Kristiansen's
On cross-examination, the prosecution asked Knowles if
Kristiansen was "legally accountable for his acts?"
Kristiansen did not object. Instead he argued that he
should be allowed to ask his previously disallowed questions
The Trial Court found Kristiansen guilty of escape. He
The Appellate Court found that Knowles' testimony had been
The Appellate Court found that under FRE 704(b), a
mental health expert is prohibited from offering an opinion as to whether
a defendant possessed the required mental state at the time of their
Basically, you can ask an expert witness whether
a person was suffering from a mental disease or defect at the time of the
crime, but you could not ask if the person was unable to appreciate the
nature and quality of their actions.
The Appellate Court found that Kristiansen should have
been allowed to ask Knowles if Kristiansen's mental problems could
have caused him not to appreciate the wrongfulness of their acts.
Knowles couldn't testify to what Kristiansen's mental
state actually was, but he could offer expert testimony that people with
those mental problems often do not appreciate the wrongfulness of their
However, the Appellate Court found that this was
The Appellate Court noted that the prosecution should not
have been allowed to ask Knowles the question they did on
cross-examination, but Kristiansen failed to object, so the Appellate
Court couldn't do anything about that.