ROCKFORD – A lawyer for the US Special Forces soldier charged with a mass shooting of Don Carter Lanes says she plans to seek court approval for assessments of her client’s mental health and fitness.
US Army Sgt. 1st Class Duke Webb, 37, of Shalimar, Florida, was visiting family in Rockford, including a brother or half-brother who works as a part-time cook at Don Carter. Authorities say Webb opened fire on Saturday with two Glock pistols at the bowling alley, tavern and off-track gambling facility on East State Street, killing three and injuring three others seemingly randomly.
Experts say that a suitability exam involves a complex analysis of the suspect and his life history to determine mental competence. But they say that while his lawyers have raised the question of whether Webb suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, there is not enough publicly known to predict whether they could view insanity as a defense strategy.
Lawyer Elizabeth Bucko of the Granger & Donahue law firm said a standard report for the trial prepared by Winnebago County Courthouse staff indicated that Webb, who travel around Afghanistan four times, can suffer from post-traumatic stress. It also indicated that Webb had scheduled a doctor’s appointment regarding a possible brain injury, she said.
Bucko said exams she asks for could be used by the court to determine if Webb is mentally fit to face trial and if there are any diagnoses of mental illness in his background. She is also considering an evaluation of Webb’s mental health before, during, and after the incident.
“It evaluates whether he was fit at the time of the event, whether he is fit occasionally, a mental health report reports any mental or physical health problems that have occurred before or are occurring now,” Bucko said.
Webb didn’t get bail on Monday. The case is scheduled to be brought before Judge Joseph McGraw for indictment on Feb. 16.
Webb is also charged with injuring three others, including a 14-year-old boy, who was shot in the face and taken to a Madison hospital; a 16-year-old girl who was shot in the shoulder and treated and released in a hospital; and a 62-year-old man who has been shot multiple times and is in a critical condition.
Given the nature of the shootings, a fitness evaluation is a wise request to determine if Webb is able to help his attorneys defend him, said Wendy Larson Bennett, a retired Winnebago County district attorney.
“There is evidence of PTSD and that could be enough to raise a question about fitness,” said Larson Bennett. “We know that it sometimes affects a person’s mental competence and the real question a psychologist has to ask is, does this person understand what’s going on? Do they understand who the people they talk to are? Do they understand why they are so have been arrested? “
A fitness evaluation is a comprehensive analysis that includes an in-depth evaluation and triangulation of a suspect’s life and medical history, said Terrance Lichtenwald, a Rockford clinical psychologist who estimates that he has conducted 1,000 such evaluations.
Lichtenwald said that when doing a fitness assessment, he is acting as an objective representative of the court and not in favor of the prosecution or defense.
“It’s definitely not what you’ve seen on TV or in a movie,” said Lichtenwald. “It’s a shocking amount of work. You have to go through all the information you can find about a person.”
Larson Bennett said the fitness evaluation is a very different analysis than one that determines common sense. Too little is publicly known about the case to determine whether it would make sense for Webb’s attorneys to seek a defense against insanity in a potential trial.
And what is publicly known could be problematic for such a defense, Larson Bennett said.
Authorities said Webb had hidden his .40-caliber Glock and .380-caliber Glock after the shooting, but then admitted to the shootings and told police where to find the weapons. Those actions could indicate an understanding that the shootings were wrong and illegal, potentially overturning a claim of criminal insanity, Larson Bennett said.
Statements of innocent due to madness or guilt but mentally ill are strategies of trial. Larson Bennett said that not enough is known to determine whether those are viable.
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