Updated: 9:58 AM PDT, April 06, 2021
A new law passed last week in the waning hours of the Kentucky legislative sessions closes a controversial loophole that has allowed some mentally ill defendants accused of violent and horrific crimes to repeatedly walk free.
Prosecutors say they plan to use recently enacted legislation to try Cane Madden, a 30-year-old habitual offender, who was deemed mentally incompetent last month to stand trial for the 2019 rape of an 8-year-old girl who was severely injured during an attack in which her head was bashed in with a shovel.
Two years earlier, Madden had been arrested for the rape and assault of a Louisville woman. Her attacker bit her face, “removing a large chunk,” according to an arrest report. Madden acknowledged committing the attack, police said, but a judge ruled him mentally incompetent to stand trial and he was eventually released.
House Bill 310 gained quick support after the March ruling that declared Madden incompetent to stand trial for the child’s brutal assault. Legislators said the new law would directly affect that case.
“What we have noticed is there is a crack in the system,” said state Sen. Morgan McGarvey in last week’s legislative session. “If you are deemed incompetent to stand trial and you are not likely to respond to treatment, nothing happens, you’re let go.”
At issue in the previous law were clauses that stipulated people can only be held against their will if they will benefit from treatment, even if they are considered a danger to themselves and others. That requirement resulted in violent offenders walking free, without receiving mental health treatment or serving prison time, authorities said.
“I’m glad they finally addressed the statute to allow dangerous mentally ill individuals to be hospitalized so that they, as well as the public, will be safe,” Hardin Commonwealth’s Attorney Shane Young told Inside Edition Digital on Tuesday.
Young has prosecuted about 10 cases like Madden’s, and in roughly half of those, the defendant went on to commit another crime, he said.
The new law allows prosecutors to petition the court to have a suspect involuntarily committed if they are a danger to others. Follow-up examinations are required to determine if such holds remain necessary.
The Jefferson County prosecutor in Madden’s case said he will use the new stipulation and seek to have the defendant committed to a psychiatric facility. Madden remains in custody pending the outcome of that hearing.