With jury deadlocked, Tarloff case declared a mistrial

Detectives walk David Tarloff from the 19th Precinct stationhouse on February 16 after he was arrested for killing psychologist Kathryn Faughey. Tarloff, who has battled schizophrenia for years, planned to rob Shinbach, who signed off on institutionalizing him 17 years ago, and attacked Faughey after she startled him in the waiting room of her office.  Credit: James Keivom/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.
Detectives walk David Tarloff from the 19th Precinct stationhouse after he was arrested for killing psychologist Kathryn Faughey. Credit: James Keivom/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images.

The murder trial of David Tarloff, accused of killing psychologist Kathyrn Faughey on February 12, 2008, was ruled a mistrial today, as the jury informed the presiding judge, Justice Edward McLaughlin, that they were at a deadlock.

Tarloff, who is a diagnosed schizophrenic, attacked the Upper East Side psychologist five years ago in the office she shared with his former psychiatrist, Kent Shinbach, who had not treated him in 17 years.

The jury had previously insisted they were at a deadlock on two separate occasions, and both times McLaughlin directed them to continue deliberating.

On Tuesday, however, McLaughlin announced, “I’m willing to say we’re finished,” the New York Times reported.

The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has already vowed to retry the case.

If convicted, Tarloff would face up to life in prison. If the insanity defense is accepted, he would be taken to a secure psychiatric facility, possibly for the rest of his life.

 

The attack

Court-appointed defense attorneys did not challenge that Tarloff killed Faughey, but maintained that he was not mentally well enough on the day of the attack to comprehend that it was wrong.

Tarloff has been in psychiatric care intermittently since 1991.

Evan Krutoy, an attorney at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, said the robbery was meticulously pre-meditated, and that the fact that Tarloff attempted to hide what he had done and escape proved he knew he had done something wrong.

Tarloff intended to rob Shinbach for money to take his mother from a nursing home to Hawaii, where he wanted to care for her himself.

The defense argued that he believed God wanted him to do it.

Tarloff reportedly told police that he was surprised to see Faughey when he arrived at the office.

He beat her in the head with a mallet and stabbed her repeated in the chest with a knife.

When Shinbach went to help Faughey, Tarloff attacked him as well.

Faughey died on her office floor.

 

Deadlock

After listening to three weeks of testimony at the State Supreme Court in Manhattan, the jury was unable to come to a conclusive decision on the insanity defense.

Jurors sent McLaughlin notes on two separate occasions insisting they were deadlocked; the judge ordered them to keep on both times.

The first note, sent last Thursday, was seven days into jury deliberations. The Times reported that yelling could be heard anytime the door to the jury room door opened.

At that time, McLaughlin read the jury an Allen charge: a script directing them to continue deliberating and set aside opinions held for pride or other unsound reasons.

Jurors were reportedly visibly angry; some even rolled their eyes.

McLaughlin expressed empathy over the difficulty of the task.

But, he said, “it was not intended to be any other way.”

Forensic psychologist, lawyer and professor Charles Ewing told the Times he was surprised that cases involving insanity defenses didn’t result in hung juries more often, as the jurors are charged with the challenge of gauging the testimony of conflicting experts.

“A hung jury may simply mean that the jurors could not agree on the morality of punishing someone who is clearly mentally ill, regardless of whether he meets the high legal standard for insanity,” Ewing explained.

The jury had at one point asked to have expert testimony reread, and spent almost a full day hearing expert opinions for a second time.

They had also previously asked McLaughlin to repeat his explanations of the requirements to prove insanity, and of the consequences of hung jury.

One juror had asked to go home on account of “negative attitudes” among the other jurors. She ultimately stayed.

To prove insanity, it is not enough for the defendant to have been under psychiatric care for a lifetime; the jury must be persuaded that Tarloff did not understand that his actions would kill Faughey and that it was wrong to attack her.

The Times pointed out that this defense is used very infrequently: out of 5,910 murder cases in New York state in the past decade, only seven defendants have been found at trial not responsible for reason of mental disease or defect.

 

Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat


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