By PAT EATON-ROBB, Associated Press
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — A Massachusetts man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the 2009 slaying of a Wesleyan University student was committed to a psychiatric hospital Wednesday for 60 years.
Stephen Morgan had been charged with murder and other crimes in the May 2009 shooting death of 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich, a college junior from Timnath, Colo. A three-judge panel found him not guilty in December after a trial in which a forensic psychologist testified that he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.
His defense team had recommended that he be committed for 45 years. The state wanted the maximum of 75 years.
The panel on Wednesday committed the 32-year-old Morgan to the maximum-security Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown for six decades after Susan McKinley, a clinical social worker at Whiting, testified that a staff evaluation found that Morgan is psychotic, depressed and a danger to others.
McKinley was part of the evaluation team that found Morgan suffers from what is clinically called Schizoaffective Disorder, Depressed Type.
"We believe that he is still symptomatic," she said. "He really doesn't have a realistic idea of how his emotional or mental state led to his crime."
Justin-Jinich, who would have graduated from Wesleyan last year, was shot seven times while working at a bookstore cafe near the liberal arts school in Middletown. Prosecutors said Morgan was partially motivated by anti-Semitism as he stalked and harassed the young woman, who was Jewish.
Morgan told the evaluation team at Whiting that he began thinking of killing Justin-Jinich sometime between the summer of 2008 and the spring of 2009.
Morgan said he went to Wesleyan three times during the spring of 2009 and was surprised to find Justin-Jinich working in the bookstore and café the day he shot her there. He told the staff he was wearing a disguise because he was afraid of being seen by people whom he believed were watching him.
He did not recall shooting her seven times, but thought he had shot her once in the head. He told the staff he felt detached, shocked at what he had done, but calm emotionally.
"I kind of couldn't believe that I had just done that," he told evaluators, according to the report. "There was disbelief, um ... I can't remember what I was thinking really.
Morgan is taking anti-psychotic and anti-depressive medications, and he showed no visible emotion during the hearing or the judge's ruling, sitting silently wearing gray sweat pants and a darker gray sweat shirt. He spoke once, declining an opportunity to address the judges.
His attorney, Richard Brown said he and Morgan's family hold out hope that his mental illness can be controlled.
"(The family) concluded that he's no longer a prisoner, he's a patient," Brown said outside the courtroom. "I remember that statement. And they hold out hope that with appropriate treatment, appropriate passage of time, that Stephen will get well enough that authorities will feel comfortable putting him in a less restrictive environment."
Justin-Jinich's family didn't attend the committal hearing, but her mother sent the court a letter urging the maximum allowable confinement, saying Morgan also threatened her daughter's friends, Jewish students and Wesleyan students.
"Morgan harassed, stalked and murdered our older daughter (sister, friend ...), Dr. Ingrid Justin wrote. "We have lost not only sweet Johanna, in all her complex loveliness, but the future we shared together. We remain devastated and forever changed."
McKinley testified that Morgan didn't understand where the anti-Semitism remarks came from and "never uttered a bigoted remark during the evaluation over the last 60 days."
Morgan apparently met Justin-Jinich at New York University in the summer of 2007, police said. Justin-Jinich was working at The Red and Black Cafe inside Broad Street Books on May 6, 2009, when Morgan walked in disguised in a wig and glasses and shot her seven times with a handgun before fleeing.
In a letter to the court, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth called Justin-Jinich a "loved and admired member of our community."