Oh the Insanity: After 124 Years, It Is Time to Amend Mississippi's Slayer Statute to Account for the Insane Slayer
27 Pages Posted: 5 Feb 2017
Date Written: February 1, 2017
While almost every jurisdiction in the United States addresses slayer inheritance, many states have failed to account for the possibility of a slayer with a mental disability or disorder. Courts in states that do not have a modern slayer statute are left with the potentially unsettling task of applying an outdated slayer statute to a modern insanity fact pattern that was not contemplated by the state legislature when the slayer statute was enacted. For example, Mississippi’s slayer statute has not substantively changed in the 124 years since its original enactment. In a 2015 case, Estate of Armstrong v. Armstrong, the Mississippi Supreme Court held that the state’s slayer statute was inapplicable to killers who were found to be insane at the time of the killing. The court reasoned that an insane person lacks the ability to willfully kill as required by the state’s slayer statute. Considering the Mississippi Supreme Court’s recent decision in Armstrong and its public policy ramifications, this article, the first to analyze the Armstrong case, focuses on Mississippi law and the reasons why the Mississippi legislature must update the state’s slayer statute. This article contends that so called insane slayers should not be allowed to inherit from their victim. First, under Mississippi law, any monetary inheritance received by the insane slayer will be taken by the state to pay for the reasonable cost of care provided during the insane slayer’s involuntary commitment. Second, the insane slayer should not inherit from his or her victim because of the inferred change in the victim’s intent created by the insane slayer’s murderous act. Finally, the precedent set by the Armstrong decision disregards the traditional public policy justifications for slayer statutes. This article concludes with a recommended amendment to the Mississippi slayer statute which would create a mandatory disclaimer on the part of an insane slayer.
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