On July 1, 2019, Pankaj Bhasin, who was represented by Greenspun Shapiro lawyers Peter Greenspun and Muhammad Elsayed, was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the tragic death of a businessman in Old Town Alexandria in July 2018. The case had gone to a jury trial on the charge of first degree murder in March 2019, where the jury heard from numerous treating mental health professionals, in addition to two expert witnesses, about Mr. Bhasin's severe bipolar disorder and psychosis. The two experts concluded Mr. Bhasin met the definition of legal insanity.
Despite having the right to have an evaluation performed, the Commonwealth did not do so or rely on any expert testimony to rebut the insanity defense at trial. The jury deliberated for three days but could not reach a unanimous verdict, so a mistrial was declared on March 27. It was determined that, while not unanimous, at least nine of the 12 jurors were in favor of a not guilty by reason of insanity verdict.
The Commonwealth then requested that an expert be appointed to evaluate Mr. Bhasin's mental state at the time of the incident. That expert agreed with the defense experts that Mr. Bhasin was legally insane. The Commonwealth therefore agreed to stipulate that Mr. Bhasin was in fact legally insane at the time of the tragic incident, and the Court found him not guilty by reason of insanity. He will now finally be transferred to receive the care he needs at a state-run secure mental health facility for further treatment and evaluation.
It is noteworthy that Mr. Bhasin did not have a significant mental health history until mid-June 2018. His condition took a downward spiral over less than a month. There was no connection at all between Mr. Bhasin and the deceased.
This is a case of tragedy for Mr. Jackson’s friends and family, and also for Mr. Bhasin and his family. Mr. Bhasin and his family’s continued thoughts are with Mr. Jackson’s family and friends for the loss they have suffered.
If you believe someone you know is possibly suffering from unexplained behaviors and changes in their mental health status, please immediately seek help for that person.