It’s a question the prosecution and defense both want to know.
On Tuesday, Henrico County police arrested and charged Angela Marie Janecka, 39, with attempted murder and felony child neglect, after they say she lied to her husband about giving birth to a dead fetus.
On Wednesday a Henrico County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Judge ordered Janecka to undergo a mental health evaluation.
Longtime clinical psychologist, Robert J. Resnick, said that prenatal and postpartum depression can alter a woman’s state of mind and behavior.
“You would say; ‘What normal person would put a newborn baby in a dryer?,’” said Resnick.
“What reasonable action would account for that?” “There isn’t one,” he said.
According to Resnick, pregnancy-related psychosis and delusions, the kind that would motivate a mother to take such drastic and harmful actions, are extremely rare and difficult to prove in court.
“That’s a very difficult issue because what we call mentally ill is not the same as what the law defines as insanity,” Resnick said.
In the case of Angela Janecka, prosecutors alleged that she told her husband, James, that the child she was she was carrying died months ago in utero.
Police said her husband accepted the claim then, and again on August 25 when she called him at work and said that she had given birth to the dead fetus in their townhome and had given the baby to a doctor who had helped her.
It wasn’t until James Janecka was cleaning up at home later that day, that he discovered the healthy 8- pound baby girl crying in the dryer.
The couple soon called their 8-year-old son’s pediatrician to report the birth. The doctor’s answering service then alerted emergency responders to the couple’s home on Aloe Court.
CBS 6 legal analyst Todd Stone said defense attorneys could use Janecka’s state of mind as a defense plea, but say it’s very difficult to prove in a court of law.
“In order to establish an insanity defense, you have to show there’s a pre-existing psychological condition that makes it such that you don’t know the nature or character of what you’re doing, or you don’t know the difference between right and wrong,” Stone said.
A bond hearing has been scheduled for Monday in Henrico County J & D Court.