Man who shot girlfriend found not guilty by reason of insanity
Ramon Vargas of The New Orleans Advocate reports that a man who fatally shot his fiancee on a Metairie street in 2013 did not murder the woman because he was insane at the time, a Jefferson Parish judge ruled Wednesday.
Jamaal T. Edwards, 27, must be moved to a state forensic mental hospital as soon as possible and receive treatment there until experts declare that he is no longer dangerous, 24th Judicial District Court Judge Scott Schlegel said (Advocate).
It is rare for a murder defendant to be found not guilty by reason of insanity because the standard of proof required for that ruling is so high, said Edwards’ attorney, Martin Regan. Schlegel rendered his verdict after weighing about 2,000 pages of evidence and hearing testimony from three mental health professionals (Advocate).
Edwards worked in movie set construction and lived on Division Street before he chased Tracy Nguyen down the block on Aug. 10, 2013, and shot her once in the upper body, according to court records. Nguyen — who was gunned down in front of at least one witness — died at the scene (Advocate).
Edwards was charged with second-degree murder about four months later. He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, citing “a history of mental illness,” and Schlegel ordered a mental evaluation for Edwards (Advocate).
Court documents show that psychologist Rafael Salcedo and psychiatrist Dr. Richard Richoux were informed that Edwards had not slept in the three days preceding Nguyen’s killing and was demonstrating “extremely paranoid … and bizarre and unstable behavior” (Advocate).
“There does appear to be compelling evidence that at the time of the commission of the alleged offense, Mr. Edwards was acutely psychotic,” Salcedo and Richoux wrote in a report. “His level of psychosis was such that it would have impaired his ability to distinguish right from wrong” (Advocate).
Similarly, psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Rouse found evidence that Edwards was “in the midst of an extended state of acute paranoia similar to (one) which required hospitalization” previously (Advocate).
After Edwards’ arrest, law enforcement and medical officials reported he was showing evidence of disturbance, mentioning hallucinations of Nguyen and believing that she was contacting him through the TV at the Jefferson Parish jail in Gretna, according to a report written by Rouse, the Orleans Parish coroner (Advocate).
There was no “direct evidence” that drug use was to blame for Edwards’ behavior, Rouse wrote in his report (Advocate).
Regan said it was obvious Schlegel did not reach his decision lightly. “It’s very unfortunate where someone, because of mental disease or problems, doesn’t recognize the right or wrong of what he did,” Regan said (Advocate).
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