Laguna ordered to serve 25 years in prison — (Ironwood Daily Globe)

SSRI Ed note: Trial Uses Involuntary Intoxication Defense; Fails Despite Acknowledgment of Drugs' Role

Original article no longer available

Trial asks ‘why?’ — (Ironwood Daily Globe)

Published Wednesday, May 3, 2006 12:36:37 PM Central Time

By MARGARET LEVRA, Globe Staff Writer

HURLEY — The Mark Laguna murder trial will focus on “why.”
“This is not a who-done-it type case,” Judge Neal Nielsen III, from Vilas County, said Tuesday during jury selection.
A seven-man, seven-woman jury was seated at 12:30 p.m.
Nielsen said that Laguna, 42, fired the weapon that killed his wife, Brenda Laguna, 42, on March 16, 2005, on Fifth Avenue in Hurley.
Defense testimony will focus on Laguna’s plea of not guilty by reason of involuntary intoxication by drugs, jurors were told.
Frederick Bourg, from the public defender’s office in Ashland, earlier said, “He was on drugs, insane at the time he did this.”
Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske told jurors to focus on intent. In outlining evidence to be presented throughout the next two days, Lipske said Laguna intended to kill his wife.
In statements to police shortly after the shooting, Laguna said he had been taking antidepressants since November. He was taking Celexa, Wellbutrin, Ceroquel [sic], for schizophrenia, and Xanex.
Laguna also has been diagnosed with a bi-polar disorder.
“He was taking the medication he was prescribed and ended up in psychotic decompensation,” Bourg told the jury.
Testimony began about 3 p.m.
Defense witness Dr. Herbert White, a psychiatrist from Rhinelander, testified he treated Laguna in November 2004, and there were no indications that Laguna had a bi-polar disorder.
He said Laguna was “extremely depressed” about marital problems.
White testified that Laguna made “no statements about wanting to kill her (Brenda).”
White said Brenda Laguna confirmed she wanted a divorce and wanted Mark to get on with his life.
Asked about diagnosing Laguna’s bi-polar condition, White said it was difficult to make a diagnosis because of the two extremes of the mood poles.
In his opening statement, Bourg said a person with a bi-polar disorder, taking selective serotonin reuptake Inhibitors, can become psychotic.
“When Mark was out on the street, he was a maniac,” Bourg said.
Bourg noted that Laguna went to a local physician’s assistant after a November 2004 stay in the Rhinelander hospital.
“Michelle Harma changed his medication, upped the dosage, because the drugs weren’t working,” Bourg said.
Harma is slated to testify later this week.
White testified there was no indication of a “bi-polar mood” when he talked with Laguna. White confirmed that in July 2005, the Federal Drug Administration placed a black box warning on Celexa, that “bad things can happen when taking this medication.”
White said if he had known about the dangers of SSRIs when he prescribed an anti-depressant for Laguna in November, he would have screened Laguna’s family history more closely.
He said SSRIs are generally not prescribed for people with bi-polar disorders.
The combination of drugs creates a “rapid transition of moods — psychotic energy driving mania,” White said. “And, it happens frequently with bi-polar disorders.”
If a doctor suspects a bi-polar disorder, he should caution his patient to be alert to sudden changes in moods, particularly any sudden changes in a perceived need for sleep, White said. “He should be alert to any changes in behavior, compulsiveness, rapid mood switches.”
Asked about the earlier general warning on SSRIs, White noted, “Inherent in treating depression, there is a possibility of mood switches.” He said that changed in 2005 when the warning became more specific — restlessness, aggressiveness, nervous response, severe agitation.
“Those warnings were made more prominent in 2005,” he said.
Testimony began again today at 8:30 a.m.
On Tuesday, Lipske said he might call 17 witnesses. Bourg listed 14 defense witnesses, including Laguna.
Earlier, Iron County Circuit Judge Patrick Madden recused himself from the case.
Original article no longer available

Jury finds man guilty of second-degree homicide — (Duluth Superior)

Associated Press

HURLEY, Wis. – A jury convicted a man Friday night of second-degree intentional homicide in the shooting of his estranged wife, after the defense contended the antidepressant drugs he was given put him in a psychotic state leading up to the killing.
Mark Laguna, 42, of Pence, was charged originally with first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting of his wife, Brenda, on a Hurley street March 16, 2005. Authorities said he drove to town, waited for her, rammed the back of her vehicle and then shot her.
Circuit Judge Neal Nielsen III gave the jury options of finding him guilty or not guilty of first-degree or second-degree intentional homicide.
In closing arguments, Iron County District Attorney Marty Lipske called the shooting death “the ultimate case of domestic violence.”
He said the victim had been concerned about how her husband would react to the divorce, and she obtained a restraining order against him.
“Her fears were real and her worst nightmare became reality,” Lipske said.
He said evidence suggested Laguna had both a good, public side and a dark side – “the side he wouldn’t give out to anybody else because if he told anyone things were escalating, rage building, anyone on the outside would have stopped him.”
Public defender Fred Bourg cited testimony of Laguna’s psychiatrist that psychotic people can make choices and make plans, but “none of it makes sense. Normal people wouldn’t do that.”
He said other testimony showed Laguna suffered from an undiagnosed bipolar disease with psychotic features, and the antidepressant drugs he was prescribed made his condition worse.
“Marketing and sales of these drugs are ahead of science, being pushed on us by drug companies,” Bourg said. “Anyone that knew that Mark Laguna was bipolar wouldn’t have given him these drugs. That is how he got to the dark side.”
Original article no longer available

Laguna ordered to serve 25 years in prison — (Ironwood Daily Globe)

Published Sunday, September 24, 2006 5:29:58 PM Central Time

By MARGARET LEVRA, Globe Staff Writer 

HURLEY — Mark Laguna, 42, of Pence, Wis, was sentenced Friday to 25 years in prison, followed by 10 years of extended supervision for killing his wife. 
“You committed a terrible act and did it intentionally,” Vilas County Circuit Court Judge Neal Nielsen III told Laguna. “I do not believe you were psychotic. Someone with your intelligence must have recognized the signs and you should have asked for help.” 
Nielsen said the six-man, six-woman jury that found Laguna guilty of second-degree intentional homicide in early May was led away from a first-degree intentional homicide conviction only because of testimony of his significant psychotic condition at the time he shot his wife, Brenda, 42, as she was running down Fifth Avenue in Hurley. 
Nielsen said he believes Laguna was experiencing a manic episode, “but not psychotic.” He noted “well documented mental illness.” 
Having attended a domestic violence seminar in Reno shortly after Laguna’s trial, Nielsen outlined statistics related to domestic violence. 
He applied those elements to the Laguna case. All the aspects of domestic violence existed. 
“Was this a domestic violence case? Nielsen asked. “Yes,” he replied. 
“There is also no question that he (Laguna) suffered from mental illness. It was recurrent,” Nielsen said. 
He said the drug regimen Laguna was on played some role in the crime. 
During the trial, public defender Fred Bourg claimed the medication Laguna was taking left him in psychotic decompensation. He said Laguna suffers from a bi-polar disorder and was taking Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors for treatment of his depression. 
A person with a bi-polar disorder taking SSRIs can become psychotic, he said, noting the Federal Drug Administration issued a black box warning on Celexa, one of the drugs Laguna was taking, in July, 2005, months after the March 16, 2005 shooting. 
In May, psychiatrist Dr. Stephanie Burrows, from Ashland, who was treating Laguna, said Laguna “felt as if he was watching the episode from two feet behind.” That’s called depersonalization, one of the many symptoms of mania, Burrows said. 
She testified Laguna’s psychotic state was brought on by his taking the inhibitors. 
She also diagnosed Laguna with having a bi-polar disorder. 
Laguna “could not appreciate the wrongfullness of what he was doing,” Burrows testified. 
She reiterated her statements by telephone on Friday, when several witnesses testified during the eight-and one-half hour sentencing session. 
In noting that Laguna suffered from a mental illness and was placed on medication for it, Nielsen said, “The problem with that is that follow-up was not with the same doctor.” 
He noted Laguna continued to receive medication from nurse practitioner Michelle Harma. 
In defense of Harma, Nielsen said, “They are people working with the best information they have in a rural community.” 
He said, “Changing any medication should have been done under the supervision of a physician.” 
Nielsen noted rural communities lack mental health resources. “There’s all kinds of money for physical illness, but not mental health.” 
Laguna addressed the court. 
“There has never been any doubt in my mind that she was a beautiful soul, and I cannot express words how sorry I am. It goes far beyond that. 
“I took a daughter away from her mother, took a mother away from her daughters. I took away a good friend… 
“It is so hard for everyone, so hard for me. All I know is there has to be a path to at least heal again, and I am committed to that path,” Laguna said. 
“There is no doubt that I loved Brenda and that love will continue. There is a dark place that I fell into. I did not willfully or intentionally want to do any of this,” he added. 
He said he saw himself get out of the vehicle, saw himself raising the gun and “then I pulled the trigger.” 
He said he had no feeling of right or wrong. He said he had no consideration for anyone else at that time. 
Sobbing, Laguna said he’s now sorry for his daughters, his family, for the people who witnessed the shooting. 
Nielsen noted that Laguna expressed remorse to all the people involved, except Brenda. “That indicates a need for punishment as well as rehabilitation.”