Witness says killer in Paso Robles was aware of actions

John Woody was hallucinating during fatal stabbing, psychiatrist testifies

ppemberton@thetribunenews.comNovember 27, 2012 

When John Woody Jr. stabbed a stranger 30 times in March 2011 at a Paso Robles laundromat, he was disorganized, hallucinating and delusional, but not legally insane, a psychiatric witness testified Tuesday.

“He was having signs and symptoms, in my mind, that were clearly aggravating factors,” said David

Fennell, a forensic psychiatrist testifying for the prosecution. Yet, Fennell added, “I still felt that he understood what he was doing.”

Woody, 30, of San Jose, has already been convicted of stabbing 46-year-old Martin McWilliams to death at the laundromat. Now his defense attorney is trying to prove that the former high school basketball standout didn’t know what he was doing when he committed the crime.

Psychiatric witnesses for both the defense and prosecution have agreed that Woody, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, had a mental illness, a conclusion backed by a history of hospitalizations, including separate stints at Atascadero State Hospital. They disagree on whether Woody was legally insane when he committed the murder.

Verdicts of not guilty by reason of insanity are rare and difficult to prove because the defense must show the defendant understood and knew the nature of the act committed and was able to distinguish between right or wrong at the time.

Exactly what Woody was thinking at the time boils down to interpretation. Defense attorney Ken Cirisan believes Woody was trying to track down the source of a voice in his head when he surveyed the laundromat before entering. Deputy District Attorney Matt Kerrigan thinks he was making sure his victim was alone. Cirisan said Woody was running from threatening voices when he fled the scene;

Kerrigan said he was running from police. Cirisan said Woody’s repeated calls to a bank on a Sunday night are signs of a psychotic episode; Kerrigan said he was trying to get money for gas so he could flee from Paso Robles.

Fennell agreed that Woody was “actively ill” and hearing voices on the day of the murder. But people who hallucinate can and often do ignore the voices, he said.

“People that hallucinate don’t invariably respond to them,” he said.

Testimony continues today before Judge Michael Duffy.

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