Competency could be key for death penalty in Indiana case

Darren Vann, pictured in a previous mug shot from a crime in Texas. (Provided Photo/Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

CROWN POINT, Ind. (AP) — Indiana law experts say the mental health of a northwestern Indiana man charged with strangling two women and suspected of killing five others could complicate the case but shouldn’t prevent the state from seeking the death penalty.

Forty-three-year-old Darren Vann of Gary is charged with murder in the deaths of 19-year-old Afrikka Hardy and 35-year-old Anith Jones of Merrillville. He is a suspect in five other deaths.

Valparaiso University Law School Dean Andrea Lyon tells The Times of Munster that even if records show Vann has a history of mental illness, the state can still seek the death penalty.

Lyon says the defense could argue Vann isn’t fit for trial or claim insanity. But Lyon says it’s difficult to prove a defendant is insane and not fit for trial.

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