MINNEAPOLIS -- Lawyers for a Minnesota man accused of drowning his infant son in a laundry tub served notice Tuesday of their intent to use an insanity defense, based on a newly released court psychologist's opinion that Randel Richardson was mentally ill when baby Rowan Richardson was killed last July.
While the full report is confidential, Richardson, of Eden Prairie, Minn., agreed to allow Hennepin County District Court Judge Mark Wernick to release the conclusion of Lawrence Panciera's report. Wernick said Panciera determined that at the time of the crime, Richardson did not know what he was doing or whether it was wrong -- the standard for mental illness.
At a hearing Tuesday, Richardson, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit, sat quietly beside his lawyers, Anthony Edwards and retired Judge Isabel Gomez. Richardson's wife and other supporters sat directly behind him in the front row.
The stakes are huge for Richardson. If convicted of first-degree murder, he could spend the rest of his life in prison. If found mentally ill, he could instead spend years receiving intensive medical treatment but ultimately be released.
The psychologist's finding means the defense must turn over all medical records to prosecutors. Edwards said, "We have no problem doing that. We think the evidence is quite clear that he was completely out of it."
Assistant County Attorney Deborah Russell can ask for a second opinion. An agreement on a plea deal to avoid a trial also is an option. "We don't know what we're doing yet," Russell said as she left the courtroom.
If Richardson goes to trial, it would come in two parts: the first to determine guilt or innocence of first-degree murder; the second to determine whether he was mentally ill under Minnesota law.
Edwards wouldn't discuss the details of Panciera's report, but he has said Richardson suffered severe depression with psychotic breaks. In the three months leading up to the drowning, Richardson had been on medical leave from his job of 13 years at Cargill, Edwards said.
Last July 31, Richardson hung up the phone after talking to his wife, who was out shopping, and took his son to the basement of their home. The murder charge against him says he "intentionally submerged" the baby in a laundry tub and "held him down while he struggled." Then Richardson went upstairs and waited for his wife. After police arrived about 5:30 p.m., he told them, "I did this on purpose," the criminal complaint said.
While Richardson is doing much better in jail with medical attention, along with that has come the full realization of what has happened, Edwards said. That his family stands behind him "is a testament to the caliber of person he is," Edwards said.
The state has until Jan. 4 to file a motion indicating its plans. The next hearing is scheduled for March 7.
"We will either set a trial date or come to some other resolution," Wernick said.
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