November 2012

Bike Assailant to Go on Trial by the End of the Year

Regina Anavy

On June 8, 2010, David Mark Clark, 39, was charged with 11 felony counts, including four counts of attempted murder, four counts of assault with a deadly weapon and three counts of battery causing serious bodily injury. Four days earlier, in a six-minute rampage, Clark apparently aimed his Nissan sports utility vehicle at four bicyclists, causing a trail of carnage that started at 22nd and Harrison streets and ended at 17th and Missouri streets, where Clark crashed his vehicle and fled the scene, leaving behind his identification. The following day Clark entered a police station in Albany to report that he’d been car-hijacked the previous night in San Francisco. He was then arrested.

“Obviously my client has mental health issues,” aid Clark’s defense attorney, Brendan Conroy. The prosecutor, assistant district attorney (ADA) Elliott Beckelman, said he was anticipating this defense. “This is not unusual in cases of overwhelming evidence. The defendant used a deadly weapon with purposeful intent; a car is just as deadly as any other weapon. There are lots of witnesses, and they will testify.” No motive was given for Clark’s behavior, said Beckelman, but “his conduct was that of someone who was very angry.”

Conroy entered a plea of “not guilty by reason of insanity” on behalf of his client. Clark has been held without bail while awaiting trial, which was originally set to begin last September. According to ADA Alex Bastian, the trial has been postponed for three months, to provide time for Clark to be evaluated by two psychiatrists. The case is set to go forward on December 3, and will be prosecuted by ADA Mary Plomin in Department 15.

Under California law, a person is declared “legally insane” if he/she doesn’t understand the nature of his/her act, or can’t distinguish between right and wrong; the “M’Naghten Test.” If the court finds a defendant to have been legally insane at the time of an alleged crime, he/she will be pronounced not guilty by reason of insanity, and committed to a state mental hospital rather than prison.

Unlike other criminal cases, where the burden of proof is on the prosecution and must be “beyond a reasonable doubt,” the burden of proof in insanity defenses is on the defendant, and must be proven by a “preponderance of the evidence.”

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