LARNED — Following a two day trial, a Pawnee County jury returned guilty verdicts Wednesday afternoon on three counts of battery of a mental health employee against Stephanie Forrest, 32, formerly of Peabody.
Forrest’s attorney argued she was not guilty due to a mental disease or defect.
Douglas W. McNett, assistant Pawnee County attorney, said the charges stem from three separate incidents in March of 2012 while Forrest was a patient at Larned State Hospital.
According the testimony presented in court, on March 4, 2012, Forrest pushed a nurse to the ground when the nurse attempted to redirect her after she had stacked mattresses up in an effort to reach some high windows.
Then on March 7, 2012, at around 12:50 p.m., testimony indicated that Forrest bit a safety and security officer on the hand when he was attempting to escort her to a different housing unit.
Later that afternoon, testimony indicated that Forrest bit a mental health tech on the hand when the tech attempted to de-escalate the defendant’s behavior. Both of the biting incidents were captured on hand-held video by LSH safety and security staff.
Counsel for the defendant did not dispute the alleged acts occurred, but argued that Forrest lacked the requisite intent to commit the crimes due to a mental disease or defect.
Expert witnesses for both the defendant and the state testified that while Forrest did have major depressive disorder her primary diagnosis was borderline personality disorder. The experts differed however on whether the defendant had any psychotic features and whether or not she could be classified as mild mental retardation.
In closing arguments, defense counsel Sam Kepfield of Hutchinson asked the jury to focus on the fact Forrest had 61 prior admissions at Larned State Hospital as evidence of her inability to control her actions.
Assistant Pawnee County Attorney Douglas McNett responded that the defendant was simply attempting to use her personality disorder as an excuse for her actions.
McNett added the defendant’s actions were nothing more or less than a person getting angry and striking out when they were told “No.”
The jury deliberated approximately 30 minutes before returning its verdict. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 13, 2014.
In 1992, Kansas law discontinued the use of the traditional “insanity defense” in favor of a defense of mental disease or defect which provides that a defendant is not criminally responsible for their acts if because of mental disease or defect the defendant lacked the intent to intentionally commit the offense.