Deadlines set for insanity defense in Kzoo shooting rampage

Jason Dalton being restrained during his preliminary hearing on May 20, 2016. A video feed from jail was required after he was dragged out of court.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A Kalamazoo County judge has set deadlines for lawyers to build their insanity defense for accused killer Jason Dalton.

Dalton is accused of shooting and killing six people and seriously injuring two others at three locations in and around Kalamazoo on Feb. 20. He faces 16 criminal charges.

Top, left to right: Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and Mary Jo Nye. Bottom, left to right: Mary Lou Nye, Rich Smith and Tyler Smith.
Top, left to right: Judy Brown, Barbara Hawthorne and Mary Jo Nye. Bottom, left to right: Mary Lou Nye, Rich Smith and Tyler Smith.

After he was arrested, Dalton allegedly told detectives that he felt the Uber app on his phone had robbed him of sleep, manifested a “devil” that took over his body, and sounded to indicate who he should kill or not kill. During his competency interview, he said that “it almost seemed” like his phone could control him, according to the forensic center’s report tied to his competency to stand trial. However, Dalton also said he is no longer experiencing those problems.

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Both defense lawyers and prosecutors met with Judge Alexander Lipsey Friday morning for updates in the Dalton case. The status conference focused on Dalton’s insanity defense and his lawyer’s push to suppress his statements to police.

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeffrey Getting said Friday the Center for Forensic Psychiatry has completed their evaluation focused on his sanity, but the defense has an opportunity to seek an outside opinion if they disagree with the findings. Lipsey ordered defense lawyers to disclose who they would be using for that outside opinion by Dec. 22.

If the forensic center found Dalton is sane, he can still plead insanity. However, Getting says Dalton’s defense team will have to prove through a preponderance of evidence that he was insane.

Kalamazoo shooting rampage, Jason Dalton, preliminary hearing
Kalamazoo shooting spree suspect Jason Dalton is dragged out of the courtroom after interrupting the testimony of victim Tiana Carruthers during his preliminary hearing. (May 20, 2016)

The forensic center already deemed Dalton competent to stand trial — but that means only that he’s capable of understanding the charges he faces and assisting in his defense. That decision has nothing to do with whether he was legally insane at the time of the shootings. However, Getting said, the center may use some of the information gathered during its competency interview  in its investigation into Dalton’s sanity.

Lipsey told the defense team it also has until Jan. 13, 2017 to file a motion to suppress Dalton’s statements to the police. The court would have until Jan. 27, 2017 to respond to their request. Getting says an evidentiary hearing on the move would take place on Feb. 10, and the court will likely set a date for Dalton’s trial after that.