As it is, he is very likely to spend the rest of his days in a high-security institution. Yes: at taxpayer expense. But as a psych case he will be 'put away' (and the public consequently protected from his possible future actions) for much longer than if he had been held legally accountable for his actions that night on the bus.
So under our system: he would have got "off" if he had gone to trial.
Exactly right. Any of the recent stories I've read suggest that following a review in June, he's most likely going to be locked up in an institution for long-term treatment, and his progress will be assessed annually. Not criminally responsible does not mean that he's not considered dangerous or that he's going to "get off." It just means he was so messed up at the time, he didn't know right from wrong, and if you've read the shrink's report, he couldn't tell real from imaginary, much less right from wrong.
In the end, the only difference between "not criminally responsible" and "guilty of murder" is where they send him and what they do with him. Nobody's planning on letting him go.
Really, what is gained by sending him to prison? Prisons hold some very sick and violent people, but they're not a place for the truly insane. His illness won't get the same quality of treatment, and they're not equipped to deal with him. What if he's a danger to the other inmates, or they become a danger to him? Is he going to be housed separately from everybody else at taxpayers' expense?
Criminals belong in jail. The mentally ill, if they're dangerous, should go to someplace that is equipped to handle them. It's fine to say kill him and be done with it, but it's a moot point. The law doesn't allow it, and that's not likely to change anytime soon.
Really, I'm amazed at the reaction to this. My concern would be public safety. Is he locked up? Is he medicated? Is the public being protected? From what I've read so far, the answer is yes. Whether he is handed a murder conviction just isn't that important. Declare him dangerous and send him to an institution where he'll be locked up just as securely, and people will actually work on making him less dangerous. That, to me, seems like it best serves the public interest.
But people have this notion that if he isn't convicted of murder, he's somehow getting away with it. That's just bulls**t. Something will be done with him either way. And whether or not we have this victory in principle of being able to call him a convicted murderer instead of just a killer, the important thing is that he is dealt with appropriately and the public is protected.