Judge accepts insanity plea for man who dismembered father

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Leroy Smith III, flanked by lawyers Scott Hess and Pamela Ames, appears in a courtroom on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017, in Augusta, Maine. A judge committed Smith to a psychiatric facility, ending the criminal case against him for the killing and dismemberment of his father. (Elise Klysa/Kennebec Journal via AP)

AUGUSTA (AP) — A man who admitted to killing and dismembering his father was committed to a psychiatric hospital on Monday after a judge accepted a plea agreement.

Leroy Smith III, the first detainee to be forcibly medicated under a state law, entered a plea that he was not criminally responsible for his actions under an agreement in which the charge was reduced from murder to manslaughter before the start of his trial.

Justice Michaela Murphy said at a Monday court hearing at the Capital Judicial Center that the evidence showed that Smith was not able to understand that his actions were wrong due to his mental illness.

“He believed he was controlled by external forces and he also believed that his father was trying to kill him,” the judge said as she read an evaluation aloud. If he had not been psychotic, “it would be extremely unlikely he would have killed his father,” she said.

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Smith, who was charged with killing his father, 56-year-old Leroy Smith Jr., in Gardiner, told investigators he acted in self-defense because he believed his father was poisoning his food. State prosecutors said Smith stabbed his father 15 times before dismembering his body.

Smith was required to take medication under a 2015 law that aims to restore the mental capacity of defendants so they can participate in their own defense.

Although Smith didn’t want the medication, he accepted that he had to take it, his lawyers said. Smith was ultimately found to be competent to stand trial and to assist in his defense.

The plea came as a surprise to Assistant Attorney General Donald Macomber, who said Smith had insisted he wanted to tell his story to the jury.

Smith’s behavior while taking psychotic medication under court order changed substantially, said Macomber, who noted that Smith acted “very respectfully” in court on Monday. During his initial court appearance, Smith had been rambling about the involvement of “rock bands and Hells Angels.”

But the medication did not change Smith’s belief that he had to kill his father, said defense lawyer Pamela Ames.

“Even the medication has not changed his subjective belief in his mind his father was going to kill him, and he had to kill him first to survive,” she said.

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