MIDDLETOWN, CT (AP / WCBS 880) – A Massachusetts man was found not guilty by reason of insanity Friday in the 2009 shooting death of a Wesleyan University student after a trial that portrayed him as anti-Semitic and mentally ill as he stalked and harassed the young woman.
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A three-judge panel agreed with the defense for 32-year-old Stephen Morgan, who will be committed to Connecticut’s maximum-security psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane.
Morgan, of Marblehead, Mass., was charged with murder and other crimes in the May 2009 death of 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich. The college junior from Timnath, Colo., was shot seven times while working at a bookstore cafe near the liberal arts school in Middletown.
Morgan sat still as the verdict was read in contrast to his rocking back and forth during the trial as he sat at the defense lawyers’ table.
Defense lawyer Richard Brown said Morgan will now get the mental health treatment he needs.
“Key to this case is that the psychiatrist hired by Connecticut found that my client could not conform his actions to the law,” he told reporters after the verdict was read.
Prosecutor Timothy Liston did not immediately comment after the verdict was read. Wesleyan students and staff who attended the trial also would not comment.
During the trial, Madelon Baranoski, a forensic psychologist and Yale University professor, testified that she evaluated Morgan and determined he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. She said Morgan has delusional thoughts that include prison guards reading his mind, video of his thoughts being shown to his family, and fellow inmates monitoring him from strategic locations.
Baranoski also said Morgan’s mental illness wouldn’t be immediately apparent to others.
Brown said Morgan will be committed to the maximum-security Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown. The judges ordered a psychiatric report to be completed by mid-February when Morgan will likely be ordered to continue confinement, Brown said.
Morgan had apparently met Justin-Jinich at New York University in the summer of 2007, police said.
Police say Justin-Jinich was working at The Red and Black Cafe inside Broad Street Books, when Morgan walked in disguised in a wig and glasses and shot her seven times with a handgun before fleeing.
The shooting caused a scare on and off campus for two days as police searched for the shooter. University officials locked down the campus and a synagogue near the bookstore closed temporarily.
Before Morgan’s arrest the next day, police announced that he left a journal in the bookstore in which he had written about killing Justin-Jinich, going on a shooting spree on campus and targeting Jews.
Justin-Jinich’s family is Jewish; her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. Authorities also said they found an infamous anti-Semitic book, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” in Morgan’s motel room.
Authorities say Morgan wrote in his journal about all the “beautiful and smart” people at Wesleyan, a liberal arts school of about 3,000 students in Middletown, about 18 miles south of Hartford.
“I think it okay to kill Jews and go on a killing spree at this school,” he wrote.
During the trial, police testified that on the night before the killing, Morgan searched the Internet on his laptop for information about the Columbine High School and Virginia Tech mass shootings.
Morgan was at a Meriden convenience store, about 10 miles from the crime scene, when he surrendered to police after seeing his photo in a newspaper. It was late in the evening on the day after the killing. He was charged with murder, intimidation due to bias and carrying a pistol without a permit.
Police testified the shooter left behind a trail of evidence including his laptop computer, a computer bag containing his journal, the gun and the disguise. They said he fled down a conveyor belt to the basement of the bookstore and ran back up a staircase to an exit door instead of escaping through a door near where Justin-Jinich was shot.
Justin-Jinich would have graduated from Wesleyan last year. She was a 2006 graduate of the Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school outside Philadelphia. At Wesleyan, friends said she was interested in women’s health issues and hoped to study international public health in graduate school.
Wesleyan spokesman David Pesci said in an email statement later Friday that while the court’s ruling “brings to a close a chapter in this awful story, the memory of Johanna, who brought such joy to so many, lives on here at Wesleyan.”
While attending Wesleyan, Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint against Morgan for unwanted and insulting phone calls and emails, but ended up not pursuing criminal charges.
At the trial, a police detective read aloud an email Justin-Jinich sent to Morgan in December 2008. She wrote: “I am so tired of you STALKING me. Leave me alone! — YOU are the type of person that women take self-defense classes to protect themselves against.”
A day before Justin-Jinich’s email, Morgan wrote an email to her saying, “When you were upset about not communicating anymore, I thought it was because you needed me. But it was all stupid because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing at the time.”
In her response, Justin-Jinich said she’d go to police if she ever saw him in person, and she would defend herself if necessary. She accused him of “spamming” her previous email account with “psychotic e-mails” and wrote: “I do NOT want to communicate with you, ever.”
“I don’t know what went wrong in your childhood or your adult life thus far to make you feel like you have some right to sexually harass me, to track me down on my various email accounts, to feel like you know me when you actually have no idea who I am or what I am capable of to make sure you never talk to me again,” Justin-Jinich wrote. “You don’t deserve to know me and you never will. So stop littering my life.”
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