Archive for Friday, November 17, 1989

Murder case in jury’s hands

November 17, 1989


A man on trial for killing a Lawrence boy in July 1988 today made his second outburst of the trial, loudly proclaiming his innocence seconds after attorneys presented their final arguments in the case.

"Damn it, I did not do it," said the man, John William, who wadded a sheet of paper and threw it to the floor.
William's outburst came after Douglas County Dist. Atty. Jim Flory made his closing argument and while District Judge James Paddock was giving jurors their final instructions.

After the jury left the courtroom to deliberate, William continued to shout, apparently directing his comments to prosecutors and members of the news media.

"God will send you to hell, misters and misses," he said. "You're accusing the wrong person."

William also proclaimed: "I know in my heart and soul that I did not do it."

William made a similar outburst Thursday, prompting Paddock to briefly remove jurors from the courtroom. The 28-year-old defendant became upset Thursday when a psychologist testified about William's relationship with his mother.

IN THEIR closing arguments today, Flory and defense attorney Ed Collister Jr. focused on the question of William's legal sanity.

Collister argued that statements from the psychologist and a psychiatrist testifying for the state left reasonable doubt that William was legally sane on July 12, when he allegedly killed 9-year-old Richard M. Settlemyre.

The testimony of the psychiatrist, Dr. Herbert Modlin of Topeka, contrasted sharply with that of a Topeka clinical psychologist who testified for the defense. Modlin concluded that William suffered from a delusional paranoid disorder but was not legally insane when the crime was committed.

The psychologist, Dr. Robert Schulman of Topeka, testified that William suffered from schizophrenia and psychosis. He testified that William entered a delusional state during the crime and, therefore, was not legally responsible for it.

Collister said that Schulman's diagnosis was more reliable because he interviewed William less than a week after he was arrested on July 14, 1988. Modlin first examined William in February of this year.

"(Dr. Modlin) is deprived of the primary source of information at least the most reliable information," Collister said. "When Dr. Modlin saw him seven months later, the evidence was gone, so to speak. The most reliable evidence we had was the evidence gathered by Dr. Schulman."

LEGAL SANITY is based on a two-part test: whether a person is able to understand the nature of his or her acts and whether the person realizes that the action is against the law.

In rebuttal, Flory questioned the validity of Schulman's testimony.

"There's been no evidence from that brown chair up there (the witness stand) that the defendant was legally insane, except for Dr. Schulman," Flory said.

Although Schulman believes William suddenly suffered from a delusion before he committed the crime, Flory said, Modlin's testimony indicated that theory was wrong. Had William suffered from a delusion, Flory said, he would not have been able to remember details about the crime such as cutting the boy's throat, stabbing him and mutilating the body.

Flory said the length of time between the crime and each doctor's examination was irrelevent. What must be decided, he said, is whether William was legally insane while committing the crime.

Collister also argued that the state has no direct evidence to support the other charges except William's statements, which were made after he had been in police custody for more than 19 hours.

"But what did he tell them?" Collister asked. "He told them a bunch of bizarre things. Maybe he was in a fantasy world the whole time."

Collister said the state has not shown that the murder was premeditated.

"WHY DO YOU think it over to kill your friend, to kill your playmate?" Collister asked. "They weren't enemies. They weren't rivals."

Flory said there are several indications that the crime was premeditated, including the fact that William took Settlemyre to a secluded area along the river, that he brought a knife with him, that he stabbed the boy a number of times and that he made an effort to hide body parts.

Jurors have several options in their verdict, as outlined by Paddock before attorneys made their arguments. William is charged with first-degree murder or, in the alternative, felony murder with an underlying felony count of aggravated sodomy.

In addition to finding William not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity, the judge said, the jury may issue a verdict of guilty to first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter or the alternative felony murder charge.

When his trial began, William also was charged with a felony count of aggravated kidnapping. The alternative felony murder charge also contained an underlying felony count of aggravated kidnapping.

At a hearing held in the judge's chambers Thursday afternoon, Paddock dismissed the aggravated kidnapping charge, which negated one felony murder count.

Court records show that the judge ruled that the state's evidence to support the charge was lacking.

Paddock refused a request by the defense to dismiss the underlying sodomy charge on the alternative count of felony murder.

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