Kalamazoo shooting spree suspect: Competency vs. sanity

Kalamazoo and Battle Creek

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — A state psychiatric exam found that accused Kalamazoo massacre killer Jason Dalton is competent to stand trial — but competency does not mean that an insanity defense is off the table.

The competency ruling means that at this point, Dalton understands the charges against him — which include six counts of murder and two of attempted murder — and can assist his attorney in his defense.

Seasoned defense attorney Damian Nunzio has asserted the insanity defense and explained that it is a very different evaluation from criminal responsibility.

“Just in simple terms, that he’s really not responsible for his conduct because he does not understand the wrongfulness of his conduct to conform his behavior, his conduct, to the requirements of the law,” Nunzio said.

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting said at this point, the defense has not requested a psychiatric evaluation to determine if Dalton was insane at the time of the crime.

If it is requested, the evaluation could delay the trial by months. That’s because once the state’s psychiatric exam is done, either the defense or the prosecution can ask for an independent evaluation if its findings are not to their liking. This can occur at any time up to a month before a circuit court trial, which without any holdups could happen this fall at the earliest.

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 to stand trial interview, he said that “it almost seemed” like his phone could control him, according to the report of the Michigan Center for Forensic Psychiatry.

But he said he no longer experiencing those problems.

He is not in any kind of segregation or suicide watch at the Kalamazoo County Jail and he is not on any kind of medication for psychological issues, according to the report.

“There have been cases where someone has been found to be temporarily insane. Those are few and far between, but that does happen,” Nunzio said.

Dalton’s defense attorney, Eusebio Solis, has not been willing to talk to reporters so the defense strategy is unknown.

Police say they have video evidence of Dalton from at least one of the shootings as well as Dalton’s four-hour interrogation. If that’s the case, then an insanity defense may be the sanest option for Dalton’s attorneys.

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