Maynard’s own deviant behavior apparently was the subject of rising concern before his arrest. Indeed, what first caught my attention in this story was not just the involvement of a professor but a reference to his arrest being the result of a tracking device placed earlier on his car. That is a novel and concerning element. As we discuss in class, in 2012, the Supreme Court resisted the encroachment of technological advances in United States v. Jones, when it ruled that police need a warrant to attach a GPS tracker on a car.
It appears that Maynard was encountered earlier by a forest officer on July 20th near a fire when his car ran off the road and became stuck on a boulder. He appeared unstable and hostile to U.S. Forest Service investigator Brian Murphy. A nearby driver said that he was “mumbling a lot and having bipolar-like behavior.” Later a second fire was spotted and investigators found the tire tracks seemed to match Maynard’s Kia truck.
That is when the Forest Service tracked his address and was told by a witness that Maynard appeared to be in the midst of a breakdown and might be living out of his car. They then began tracking Maynard’s movements through his electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card and obtained cellphone search warrants. They also obtained a warrant allowing a vehicle tracker to be placed on the Kia. That was used to confirm his presence at the start of the most recent fire.
He continued to display great anger and instability in custody. He is quoted as screaming at police in the Lassen County Jail, “I’m going to kill you, f—king pig! I told those f—kers I didn’t start any of those fires!” That account raises a serious question of whether Maynard would even be competent to stand trial absent some psychiatric intervention and treatment.
There is an abundance of evidence of a mental disability and crisis in this case. This is someone who clearly needs help and hopefully will now get some. The question will become whether that evidence is sufficient as an insanity defense.
California generally follows the “McNaghten (sometimes spelled M’Naghten or McNaughten) rule allowing an insanity defense where the subject “is not criminally responsible for an act when a mental disability prevented the person from knowing either (1) the nature and quality of the act or (2) whether the act was right or wrong.” A 1994 amendment to the criminal code that barred courts from finding a defendant insane solely on the basis of a personality or adjustment disorder, a seizure disorder, or addiction to, or abuse of intoxicating substances.
Ultimately, Maynard’s counsel can seek to prove insanity before a jury and, if successful, he would be committed to a state mental hospital.
The prosecutors could argue that he demonstrated fear of being caught and recognition that he knew that he was committed a wrong act.
If convicted, Maynard could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for that fire.