Judge to decide Florida’s face-biting insane plea

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A former college student who bit the face of one of his victims after randomly murdering a Florida couple in his garage six years ago went on trial Monday, a judge said he Decide whether to serve life imprisonment or go to prison. to a mental hospital.

Austin Haruch, 25, has pleaded not guilty to two counts of first-degree murder and other charges on the grounds of insanity. August 2016 Murder of landscaper John Stevens, 59, and his wife Michel Mishcon Stevens, 53.

Former Florida State University student waives jury trial. This means that circuit judge Sherwood Bauer will decide whether Harouf was insane when he killed the couple and severely injured the neighbor who came to their aid.

The trial was delayed by the pandemic, legal disputes and Harouf’s recovery from serious injuries sustained while drinking chemicals during the attack. Lasts about 3 weeks.

Prosecutor Brandon White did not respond to phone calls and emails seeking comment.Harouf’s lead attorney, Robert Watson, declined to comment.

Under Florida law, defendants are presumed sane. For Harouf’s defense to succeed, Watson must have had a serious mental disorder that prevented him from understanding his actions, or that “clear and convincing evidence” had them wrong. You have to show that run away from demons when he attacked a couple.

If convicted, Harrouff will be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Prosecutors waived the death penalty.

If Harouf is found insane, Bauer will keep him in a safe mental hospital until doctors and judges agree he is no longer in danger.Craig Trocino, University of Miami Law Professor said doctors and judges would be “very unlikely” to risk releasing a notorious killer like Haruf, effectively serving a life sentence.

Two mental health professionals hired by the prosecutor and defense counsel examined Harouf and found that he had suffered an acute psychotic episode during the attack. They also discover that he cannot distinguish between right and wrong.

The prosecution then hired another expert who said Harouf was sane, but recently recanted him, saying he had serious health problems. We have a third specialist who believes he was on medication that didn’t show up in tests, but who hasn’t looked into him.

The bar to success is so high, said Lee Johnston, a law professor at the University of Florida, that only about 1% of felony defendants attempt the insanity defense. A successful pretrial deal where the prosecutor agrees that the defendant’s mental illness meets the criteria.

Defendants who abandon the jury are the most successful defenders of insanity leading to trial, she said. You may be worried that the accused will be released sooner.

“There are decades of research showing that[the public]is biased against the defense of insanity and that it is widely misunderstood,” she said.

Harouf’s attack made national headlines for its brutality and randomness. He didn’t know the victim. At his 19-year-old with no criminal record, he was a former high school football player and wrestler studying exercise science. He nearly stripped naked and attacked the couple with tools he found in an open garage. Harouf had bit off John Stevens’ face when the police arrived.

It took several police officers, an electric stun gun, and a police dog to subdue Haruf. The officer didn’t shoot Stevens because he was afraid of hitting him.

Harrouff nearly died because the chemicals he drank in the garage burned his digestive system.

Investigators found he had purchased some hallucinogenic mushrooms days before the attack, but friends said he destroyed them and found no traces in his blood. also googled “how to know if you’re hooked”.

Harouf’s parents are divorced, and others said he had been acting strangely for weeks. It happened first.

His father, Wade Haruf, said Television psychologist Phil McGraw On the night of the murder, his son walked out of the restaurant where he was eating without any explanation. He walked two miles (3 km) to his mother’s house and tried to drink cooking oil. Mina Haruf stopped him, but he poured oil into a bowl containing Parmesan cheese and ate it.

She took him back to the restaurant. Wade HaroufA dentist, he grabbed his son and told McGraw, “What’s wrong?” He said his son raised his fist, but Wade Harouf’s girlfriend told him to stop and he left.

A security video of the restaurant shows Austin Harrouff quietly exiting the restaurant about 45 minutes before the attack. His mother claims she called 911 before learning of the attack, claiming her son has psychic powers, and that demons are in her home, making her seem paranoid. I told the dispatcher that.

But it was too late. Harouf said he walked or ran the 6 km (4 mi) to Stevens’ house.

Austin Harouf told McGraw that he was on the run from a demon he called Daniel, and that he had only vague memories of the killing.

He said he met Michelle Stevens in the couple’s garage.

“I don’t remember what she said, I just remember being yelled at,” Haruf said. He said he grabbed a machete, but he doesn’t remember why he killed her and her husband.

“It seems to have happened, but I wasn’t aware of it,” Haruf said.