Jury rules he had a mental deficiency at the time of the crime

An Otter Tail County District Court jury on Wednesday found Iraq War veteran and Fergus Falls resident Dustin Defiel not guilty of second-degree murder of his father due to mental deficiency.

The verdict came in a second trial to determine his mental health. In an initial trial last week, the same jury had found him guilty of murdering his father without premeditation.

Late Wednesday night people poured into the courtroom to hear the jury’s decision. Shortly after 9:30 p.m. the jury reached its verdict. As it was announced, Dustin stood with his attorney. He shook as the verdict was read as well as after.

The not guilty verdict means that Dustin is still found to have committed the June 1, 2016, crime but he cannot be held criminally responsible due to mental deficiencies caused by untreated mental illness.

Judge Waldemar Senyk told Dustin that he would be transported to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter. He will be held until examined and until a proceeding for commitment begins.

“What if they determine I don’t need to be there?” Dustin asked

Senyk told Dustin that he will have access to an attorney to aid him in his hearing and answer any questions.

“The jury has spoken. The trial is at an end,” Senyk said, closing out a legal proceeding that began in his courtroom three weeks ago.

 

The last witness

Wednesday’s proceedings began with the defense resting its case in the second trial to determine if Dustin is guilty of murdering his father, Rick Defiel. The first trial determined whether he committed the crime. The second trial addressed whether he was criminally responsible due to mental illness or mental deficiency.

The state called one witness to the stand before resting its case. That witness is Dr. Taylor Olson Norgaard who is a forensic psychologist at the St. Peter Regional Treatment Center. She was court ordered to perform a competency evaluation and then later to perform an evaluation as to whether Dustin is criminally responsible for his actions the night of June 1.

Olson works only on the evaluation part of the process and does not work in providing treatment. She was accepted by the court as an expert witness in the field of forensic psychology.

Olson testified that Dustin was committed to St. Peter for a 60-day inpatient observation period starting on June 5, 2016. Part of Olson’s work included talking with Dustin’s treatment providers and reading through his treatment reports.

During his time in the facility, Dustin was evaluated in a psychiatric interview. This interview was done the day after arriving. She described him as fidgety, with latent speech. He was tearing up squares of toilet paper. She said he was elevated — or presented as angry and he had a lack of range in his emotions.

This interview also indicated that he had extreme paranoia and isolation. He refused to eat and he slept sitting upright on the floor with his back against either the wall or the sink. He would constantly wear his sunglasses. He covered himself with sheets or blankets.

He also put materials in his ears so as to not hear things. It was determined that he should be later evaluated for post-traumatic stress disorder with psychotic features as well as major depressive disorder.

After being in the facility for five days — and nine days after the murder — Dustin was put into isolation to be watched 24 hours of the day. It was deemed a medical emergency and the facility looked to the court to be able to administer psychotic medication without the permission of the defendant.

Upon taking medication, Dustin returned to a more normal state. He began sleeping in his bed, eating and interacting with others within the treatment center. He stopped putting towels and blankets on his head.

While in the treatment facility, Olson interviewed Dustin to determine if he was competent to stand trial. The interview for this purpose took place July 7, 2016. He was deemed competent to proceed with the trial.

In this first interview, Olson was checking for active symptoms. That part of her evaluation dealt with at the time of the interview. She said that Dustin present in similar ways during both interviews she conducted of him. The second of these interviews took place on Nov. 17, 2016.

Olson said he presented himself in a clear coherent manner. She said his thoughts and answers were on topic with her questions.

Defense attorney Chris Cadem pointed out that he was medicated at the times of these interviews.

The second evaluation performed by Olson is determines whether Dustin is criminally responsible for the crime of murder in the second degree. To be criminally responsible Dustin must have known the nature of his actions or have known he was doing was wrong.

Olson described her process in three parts.

First, she analyzed his background information including his social history, educational background, employment history, military service, medical history, mental health history, substance use and legal history. The second part was to determine whether, Dustin actually had a mental illness. She also needed to decide whether his mental illness was so impactful that he didn’t know what he was doing or that he didn’t understand that it was wrong.

“It is very rare to meet such a strict standard,” Olson said.

Olson testified that out of the 16 criminal responsibility evaluations she has done only one has been found to either have mental illness or deficiency that impacted their actions at the time of a crime.

A mental status examination was also done on the defendant by Olson. She said that Dustin was guarded with information and was hesitant to answer many questions. A few times he said he didn’t remember what happened. He asked to speak with his attorney. This was granted by olson, and upon her return Dustin provided more information.

Olson did not believe it was necessary to do psychological testing because the records she reviewed had enough information. Her diagnosis was primarily PTSD in addition to other specified personality disorder with antisocial features.

Olson also reviewed collateral records. These materials were described police reports, background information and video and audio of Dustin at the time of arrest and being interviewed by law enforcement. She said the significance she found in these materials was that he answered questions and communicated effectively. He sat still while being interviewed. He put his hands out the window of his car before law enforcement gave any instructions at the time of arrest.

When she interviewed Dustin, she asked about the day and the night of the murder. Olson testified that Dustin told her he drove to Fergus Falls from Fargo when he was driving around and got a flat tire. He said he went to his parents house to get money.

Dustin said to Olson that he had a conversation with his father. He described it as a negative encounter. He said his father yelled at him and said he was going to “kick his a–.” He said his dad was going to hit his face, that he had done it before and he didn’t like to be hit in the face.

Dustin said in this interview that he went into his room, locked the door, loaded the gun and then went out of the room, saw his father and then “shot and shot.”

He said the events were a blur. With encouragement, or repeating or rephrasing the questions, he provided more information. He didn’t remember speaking with his mother. He did say in this interview that he thought his mom was in the bathroom.

He couldn’t answer why he took the gun with him. He didn’t know why. He didn’t remember being pulled over or arrested by police officers.

The end of Olson’s involvement prior to testifying in court was to make a conclusion and write a report. She concluded that he knew what he was doing and he knew that what he did was wrong. She didn’t agree with the other forensic psychologist, Paul Reitman that Dustin was delusional at the time of the crime.

During cross examination, Cadem pointed out that Olson had less experience than Reitman. He had 35 years of experience and Olson had been in her position for 10 months prior to the start of Dustin’s case. He pointed out that she doesn’t work with the treatment aspect of mental illness at all.

Cadem also pointed out that Dustin has been an inconsistent historian and is not a reliable source of information about his mental state of being or mental history. During the first interview with Olson, Dustin said he had no mental history and said he would like to go back to the jail.

In a June 2 interview, Dustin said, “I’m not a bad person, I don’t deserve this. I’m a good [expletive] person.”

Prosecuting attorney Michele Eldien asked Olson about Dustin’s interactions during his time in the treatment facility. Olson replied that he didn’t participate in any treatment activities or groups.

 

Closing statements

After the last witness finished her testimony, Senyk gave instructions to the jury. At that time the attorneys gave their closing arguments. Cadem started.

He started by saying the murder has been a tragedy for the whole family. He said that Dustin was also a victim of this crime — he lost his father, his family and his life.

“I’m asking you to prevent another tragedy and not convict a severely mentally ill man,” Cadem said to the jury. “Give this man the help he needs.”

At this point and throughout the day’s events Dustin shook slightly. He also occasionally nodded along with what the attorneys or witness said.

Cadem said that even though Dustin was the actor in the crime, he wasn’t mentally present.

In the state’s closing argument, Eldien reminded the jury that sympathy is not to be considered in this case, only the facts are. During her argument, Eldien presented a PowerPoint slideshow with slides of information on each person the jury heard from in this case and what was either right or wrong about their testimony.

She pointed out flaws in the testimony of Tammy Defiel and Reitman but applauded the testimony of Olson.

She emphasized how the jury needed to only consider the date of June 1, 2016. She said Reitman’s opinion was not supported and said Olson’s was founded upon facts.

“And now I’m asking for a guilty verdict,” she said to the jury.

After Eldien finished her closing argument, Cadem had another chance to talk to the jury before they received more instructions and left to deliberate. He said the state’s argument is inconsistent with testimony and evidence.

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