Murder Defendant Found Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity
For Immediate Release: July 1, 2019
On July 1, 2019, in the Alexandria Circuit Court, Pankaj Bhasin, a 35-year-old New Jersey resident, was found not guilty by reason of insanity of first-degree murder.
On the morning of July 13, 2018, police responded to the 1200 block of King Street in Alexandria, Virginia. The defendant, Pankaj Bhasin, had just exited from a building housing a business called Window Universe. The defendant had his pants down and was covered in blood. He attempted to enter the car of a stranger, whose occupants quickly left the vehicle and called 911. When the police arrived on the scene, they removed the defendant from the vehicle. The police proceeded to enter Window Universe, where they discovered the body of Bradford Thomas Jackson, a 65-year-old Alexandria resident. Jackson had suffered numerous stab wounds. The investigation produced no tangible evidence of a connection between the victim and Bhasin.
A trial was held in March of 2019 at which the defendant pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. During the trial, several mental health professionals diagnosed the defendant as suffering from Bipolar Disorder with “mood-congruent psychotic features.” Two experts testified the defendant met the legal standard of criminal insanity at the time of the offense. The jury deliberated for three and a half days but was unable to reach a verdict, and a mistrial was declared on March 27, 2019.
The Commonwealth engaged in post-trial conversations with members of the jury and learned that a significant majority had voted to find the defendant not guilty by reason of insanity. On April 25, 2019, the Court appointed an independent psychologist at the Commonwealth’s request to evaluate the defendant’s sanity at the time of the offense. The psychologist’s report was received by the Court in June 2016, and largely paralleled the findings of the defendant’s expert witnesses. The psychologist concurred in the opinion that the defendant had been criminally insane at the time of the offense. In light of this evidence and the relevant ethical obligations incumbent on prosecutors, the Commonwealth determined that it did not have a reasonable probability of prevailing at a retrial of this matter.
Accordingly, on July 1, 2019, the parties agreed to a finding that the defendant was not guilty by reason of insanity. The Court entered an order committing the defendant to a secure facility of the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.