Keefe Begins Work On Shenkman Insanity Defense

by Symptom Advice on October 22, 2011

The testimony came as Shenkman’s lawyer, Hugh Keefe of New Haven, began presenting evidence that he hopes will convince jurors that Shenkman was not guilty by reason of insanity for the events of July 7, 2009.

The Hartford Hospital physicians examined Shenkman at about 12:30 p.m. on July 8, 2009, about 12 hours after he arrived at Hartford Hospital. He’d been taken there for treatment after suffering superficial burns and other injuries in the standoff, which ended the previous midnight.

Dr. David Pepper told jurors that Shenkman told him he was hearing voices, that he felt persecuted by police and his ex-wife Nancy Tyler, that he felt hopeless and helpless and believed it would be OK if police killed him. on a scale of 1 to 100, Pepper rated Shenkman a 15 and said he had “severe impairment.”

After examining and interviewing Shenkman for about an hour, Pepper diagnosed Shenkman as having psychosis. he could not say, however, what brought it on, but said he could not rule out severe depression or bipolar disorder and suggested doctors handling his care later examine those possibilities.

Dr. Harold I. Schwartz, chief of psychiatry at Hartford Hospital and the affiliated Institute of Living, supervised Pepper’s examination and participated at points, he testified.

He agreed with the conclusion that Shenkman was psychotic and noted that at times be seemed to respond to the voices he said he was hearing.

“He reported the hallucination to be of his ex-wife’s voice … telling him that it would be OK,” Schwartz told the jury. there was another voice, Schwartz said, that was telling Shenkman to kill himself.

Shenkman was also paranoid and believed that police were going to kill him, Schwartz testified.

The doctors judged him to be a high risk for suicide.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Vicki Melchiorre worked to convince jurors that Shenkman faked the symptoms of mental illness in an effort to keep himself out of jail.

“People feign mental illness for specific reasons, yes?” Melchiorre asked. yes, Pepper answered.

“Is one avoidance of jail?” she asked. “Yes,” Pepper responded.

As to the view that Shenkman was extremely suicidal, Melchiorre asked Pepper and Schwartz if they knew Shenkman had in his possession a loaded handgun for 15 hours the previous day. they did not.

If Pepper thought Shenkman was lying, Keefe asked, would he have made a note of that on Shenkman’s record. Pepper said he would have. when Keefe asked if Pepper had made such a notation, Pepper said he had not.

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