Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mother with Mental Illness Pleads Guilty

According to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, Catherine Alana Stevens, a woman with a long history of mental illness, has plead guilty to murdering her 2-year-old son, William. ("Stevens Found Guilty Of Son’s Murder," May 10, 2008) Charged with capital murder, Stevens faced the death penalty at one point. With her plea agreement, she was given a life sentence and will be eligible for parole after serving 30 years. Unlike at least five other recent cases involving mothers with mental illness who have killed their children, Stevens will not receive mental health services or be committed to a state mental hospital.

Here are excerpts from the article:

"Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham requested that her capital murder indictment be dismissed because of the plea agreement and 7th District Judge Kerry Russell granted it after he sentenced the defendant.

'We are very pleased with the resolution to this case through the hard work of the Tyler Police Department and First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes,' Bingham said. 'We were able to show that in fact (Mrs. Stevens) was not insane.'

Defense attorneys Brett Harrison and Tonda Curry had earlier filed a notice of intent to raise the insanity defense in her capital murder trial but withdrew the motion during the hearing. They said Mrs. Stevens was examined Friday by a doctor who found her competent to proceed with the guilty plea.

'In this case, this mother who killed her child will not be going to a state hospital,' Bingham said. 'She will be going to the penitentiary for life and will not be eligible for parole for 30 years, ensuring that she spends virtually the rest of her life in the penitentiary without a trial and having waived all rights to appeal.'

Bingham said there was no question that Mrs. Stevens had a lengthy history of mental illness, but it did not equate to legal insanity.

'Our (mental health) experts found on the night in question that she knew her conduct was wrong,'he said.

Harrison said the case was a terrible tragedy. He said all of the mental health experts, hired by the state and defense, agreed she had a long history of severe mental disease; but, under Texas law, that alone is not sufficient to establish the insanity defense. Because of that, Mrs. Stevens chose to plead guilty.

'This was fully her decision and we support her decision,' Harrison said.

Under Texas law, people are found legally insane if, at the time of an offense, they did not know their conduct was wrong because of some mental illness or defect.

Mrs. Stevens, clad in a tan jail jumpsuit and shackles, told the judge that over the last five years she had been confined several times in the Rusk State Hospital, a couple of times at the Behavioral Health Center and once at a Dallas hospital. She said she was treated for depression with psychosis.
Harrison said she was found competent to stand trial by several doctors early on in the case, but was examined again Friday before the guilty plea. ..."


"Mrs. Stevens was not the first woman to raise the insanity defense in her capital murder case in Smith County.

In 2004, Deanna Laney was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a Smith County jury after she stoned two of her young sons to death and critically injured her toddler in 2003.

After Ms. Laney was acquitted, 114th District Judge Cynthia Stevens Kent ordered her to be placed in a maximum-security inpatient treatment facility. Since then, Judge Kent has presided over closed-door civil commitment hearings each year and determined that Ms. Laney should remain at an inpatient facility."


Anonymous said...

This was a huge miscarriage of justice. There is rampant corruption in the justice department in Tyler. They were after a win in the case of Catherine Stevens and they got it. When she killed her child she thought she was saving it from some unseen evil. Catherine lived in constant fear of some unseen foe, this was why she was constantly hospitalized. Hopefully, one day the district attorney and the judges in that county will meet their day in prison.

Anonymous said...

Funny you say that because if you really knew her, then you would not be calling her Catherine. I believe she was sick, her whole family knew she had issues, so knowing that and "living in fear" she should not have had Will. She was never stable enough to be a mom. I know she loved him, but it does not dismiss what she did. Insane or not,right from wrong, she did it. I miss her and I loved her her whole life, until July 8, 2008.

Anonymous said...

What a horrible story. He was such a precious little boy, and I hope that Jesus is holding him especially close.