Teen attempts mental defect defense in robbery — (The Oregonian)

SSRI Ed note: Teen on Lexapro behaves recklessly, gets involved in car crash, carries guns, robs a store.

Original article no longer available

The Oregonian

Friday, September 21, 2007

By Kurt Eckert, The Argus

The attorney for a North Plains teen charged in an Aloha robbery says his client is not guilty because he was under the influence of a mental defect or disease.

Defense attorney James Mcintyre said Ryan Taylor Johnson, 18, then a Glencoe High School student, was “undergoing an undiagnosed, improperly medicated bi-polar disorder,” when he went into the High Speed Cash store, 18370 Tualatin Valley Highway.

Because of the severity of the charges of robbery in the first and second degree, Johnson is being tried as an adult in Washington County Circuit Court, though the robbery happened April 4, 2006, when he was 17.

Senior Deputy District Attorney Chris Quinn told Judge Nancy Campbell that Johnson sat in his car behind the store for almost two hours before the robbery, drumming up his courage. The first time he walked in, he asked to use the bathroom. When refused, he walked back out, Quinn said. After a while, he got up enough courage to pull a ski mask over his face and go back inside the store.

Employees will testify he brandished a firearm above waist level and demanded money from the till, Quinn said. Mcintyre said he wasn’t contesting many of his client’s actions. The incident was simply the culmination of years of depression, a rough family life and use of drugs, alcohol and prescription drugs, including Lexapro, an anti-depressant which is not normally prescribed to adolescents, Mcintyre said.

Several days before the robbery, Johnson had been involved in a car crash and was going to have to pay $1,300 to fix the damages to the other party’s car. “Ryan became fixated, and the cure was money,” Mcintyre said. “The ability to act in a reasonable way goes out the window.”

Though he was carrying a firearm, it was not loaded and he did not point it at anyone, Mcintyre said. And when the female clerk told him she didn’t know how to access any money, he left with nothing. Washington County Sheriff’s Office deputies were able to catch up with Johnson after a witness saw him running from the store wearing the ski mask, and followed his car from the scene.

A short time later, deputies intercepted Johnson’s tan Volvo at Southwest 114th Avenue and Southwest Canyon Road in Beaverton. Three loaded magazines and two handguns were found hidden under some clothes in the vehicle, Quinn said. Mcintyre said neither gun was working properly, though Quinn said he had criminalists who would testify otherwise. Testimony is expected to continue until early next week.