Claire Miller, the Manheim Township teenager charged with stabbing her older sister to death in February, intends to mount an insanity or mental illness defense.
Miller’s attorney, Robert Beyer, disclosed the strategy in a court filing earlier this month. He also asked a judge to schedule a hearing on whether to transfer the case to juvenile court.
Miller, who will turn 15 on May 18, is charged with a single count of homicide for the death of her sister, Helen Miller, 19. Under Pennsylvania law, homicide is automatically treated as an adult crime.
In the filing, Beyer wrote that transferring Miller’s case to juvenile court, which focuses on rehabilitation and includes supervision until age 21, would serve the public’s interest.
Miller is amenable to treatment and rehabilitation as a juvenile, Beyer wrote.
Although Beyer also filed the required notice of an insanity or mental infirmity defense should the case go to trial, the specifics of her illness weren’t yet available, he wrote. He declined comment Thursday.
Insanity is a legal standard, not a specific medical diagnosis. A person can be found legally insane when their illness prevents them from either understanding what they were doing when they committed a crime, or that they did not know what they were doing was wrong.
Relatedly, a person could be found guilty but mentally ill if their illness was a factor, but did not meet the criteria for insanity.
In either case, the person would undergo treatment. A person found not guilty by reason of insanity could be released from treatment once they are deemed no longer a danger to themselves or others. A person found guilty but mentally ill would serve out the rest of their sentence in prison once treated.
Feb. 21 arrest
According to Manheim Township police, Miller called 911 shortly after 1 a.m. on Feb. 21 and said she had killed her sister.
When officers arrived at the Clayton Road home, they found Helen Miller in a bedroom with a pillow over her face and a knife in her neck. Helen Miller, who had cerebral palsy, had been stabbed repeatedly, an autopsy found.
According to a search warrant application, an unidentified person told police shortly after they arrived at the house that they had been talking to Claire Miller and that Miller had been having suicidal and homicidal thoughts. The warrant didn’t say when they had been talking.
Miller is being held at the State Correctional Institution at Muncy, a women’s prison about 80 miles northwest of Lancaster in Lycoming County. Unlike Lancaster County Prison, Muncy has age-appropriate housing.
Miller is scheduled to be formally arraigned Friday, when a judge will read the homicide charge to her. Beyer said she will plead not guilty.