TAMPA, Fla. - Sharyn Hakken smiled, stuck out her tongue and giggled in a Tampa courtroom Tuesday morning as the state tried to decide whether to pay for more psychiatric evaluations for her.
A lawyer for the mother of two argues Hakken was legally insane when she and her husband kidnapped their two boys and sailed them to Cuba.
Bryant Camareno, her lawyer, says she's also a battered wife who was coerced by her abusive husband into the abductions.
Jeff Swartz, an instructor at Tampa’s Cooley Law School and a former Miami-Dade County judge, said a carrying out a successful insanity defense can be difficult for lawyers.
"Insanity is actually where you determine whether the defendant knew the difference between right and wrong at the time that they committed the offense that they're charged with," he said.
"Someone can be insane at one moment for the purposes of criminal liability and be restored to sanity at another moment," he said.
An insanity defense has only worked a handful of times in Tampa Bay.
Stephen Coffeen was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the so-called “Red Bull case” in Pinellas County. Coffeen said he smothered his 83-year-old father after downing a few rounds of the caffeinated drink. Last September, Coffeen walked out of a mental facility a free man.
As for Hakken, her children's wellbeing will likely play a big part in her undecided fate.
"It's a possibility she could get her kids back, and that really may be the crux of the negotiations that they may undergo in the end. And that is they want to protect the kids," said Swartz.