Found not guilty by reason of insanity, he was sent to Patton, where he exhibited signs of extreme depression. A therapist who put him on a regimen of playing tennis and other recreational activities helped start him back on the road to the world of the living.
"Asylum" gives viewers a straightforward, cinema verite look at the inner workings of the Patton facility. Several other patients also were interviewed and followed through their daily activities and therapy sessions, including one woman who killed her baby.
Clarke saw an advance copy of the documentary and says the film demonstrates what Patton does to help people.
Clarke's problem was "not brain chemistry," Smith says. "It is more certain that Chris' psychosis was brought about by a series of stressors in his life, exacerbated by his upbringing," particularly a history of abuse during his childhood.
According to Smith, Clarke was suffering from a form of schizophrenia that can result in brief psychotic episodes.
"Generally it's not recurring. It is unlikely that he would have another psychotic episode in his life," Smith says.
Because of the insanity verdict, Clarke is not a convicted felon and his civil rights are not restricted in any way; for example, he can vote. He will stay in the conditional release program until Superior Court fully restores his legal status, releasing him from the program. Patients such as Clarke usually stay in the system for two to three years, Smith says.
Although he lived in a halfway house when he was first released, he now lives on his own in San Diego County and is financially self-sufficient. As long as he maintains contact with the release program and doesn't violate any of the agreements he made when he left Patton, such as not drinking or doing drugs, he is free to do what he wants. In addition to his job, he helps raise money for the La Mesa YMCA. He plays tennis and volleyball regularly, and he's taking a French class.
He seems happy. The smile comes quickly. But the memory that he has killed a person is never far away.
"I still think about it--not every day, but I see things that trigger the memories," he says, his voice trailing off. "And that dampens any happiness I feel."
According to the film, 88% of patients released from Patton never commit another crime. Clarke says he would recognize if he was getting into trouble again. He knows the signs now--the mistrust of others, the lack of sleep, the compulsive behavior. He knows what to do to avoid stress.
When asked about the pressures he's facing now, the stress of going public with his story, he takes off his glasses and leans forward.
The stress is "not as much as murdering somebody," he says, forming the words slowly. "This is a cakewalk compared to that."
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