Lawyer’s insanity defense succeeds in Stamford court
By Monica Potts
Article Launched: 05/20/2008 01:00:00 AM EDT
STAMFORD – A Stamford lawyer who shot at a motorist, then broke into his ex-wife’s house was found not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect yesterday.
Eric Witlin, 40, will be committed to Whiting Forensic Institute for evaluation until he returns to court July 14. Judge Richard Comerford could commit Witlin for the time he could have been sentenced to prison, a total of 70 years.
After hearing testimony last week, Comerford found the state proved that Witlin, of 65 Interlaken Road, committed attempted murder, assault, burglary and risk of injury to a child on May 20, 2007.
That night, he fired a shotgun twice at motorist Michael Balcombe, 45, on Hartswood Road. Witlin then went to the Idlewood Drive home of his ex-wife, Brenda Witlin, broke the glass of sliding doors and windows in her kitchen and entered with the gun while his 11-year-old son was in his bedroom, according to court testimony.
Witlin told police and other witnesses that his family was in danger because Brenda Witlin’s house cleaner was stealing from them and had hatched a kidnapping scheme.
Two psychiatrists, including one hired by the prosecution, testified that Witlin suffered a psychotic episode brought on by Adderall and Prozac, which were prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder and depression.
Schechter also testified that Witlin may have been misdiagnosed and suffered from a bipolar disorder.
“The defendant lacked the capacity, as a result of his underlying disease
and the aforesaid induced psychotic disorder, to appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct or to control his conduct within the requirements of the law,” Comerford said.
Senior Assistant State’s Attorney James Bernardi said Witlin’s mental state on the night of the incident was uncontested, since both psychiatrists agreed.
“In this particular case, his motives were so irrational and so incapable of rational explanation . . . it was obvious that he was suffering psychosis at the time that this happened,” Bernardi said.
Witlin’s attorney, Wayne Keeney, said doctors at Whiting will evaluate Witlin to plan his care and that he could be committed again after he serves the term set by Comerford if doctors think it’s necessary.
Keeney said he is not sure that will be needed.
“I have every reason to believe, now that he’s properly medicated, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with him,” he said.