- Hannah Winston Palm Beach Post Staff Writer
Austin Harrouff’s attorneys say he did not know what he was doing, or did not know what he was doing was wrong, when he fatally attacked two people and attempted to kill a third person in Martin County last year, according to court documents filed today in Martin County Court.
Nellie King, one of Harrouff’s attorneys in his first-degree murder case, filed a notice of intent for an insanity defense Tuesday afternoon. Harrouff is accused of fatally stabbing John Stevens and Michelle Mishcon in the garage of their home on South Kokomo Lane along the border of Martin and Palm Beach counties on Aug. 15, 2016.
Harrouff, a Jupiter resident, also is charged with attempted first-degree murder for attacking a neighbor, Jeff Fisher, who was able to get away and called authorities. When investigators from the Martin County Sheriff’s Office arrived that night, they found then-19-year-old Harrouff biting on Stevens’ face.
“Harrouff was suffering from a full-blown psychotic episode,” according to the court filing.
In a statement provided late Tuesday by King, she said that her client’s mental state “squarely” fit within the definition of legal insanity.
“There is overwhelming and compelling evidence Austin was suffering acute psychosis which rendered him unable to appreciate what he was doing or the wrongfulness of his actions,” King said.
Previously, Harrouff’s father, Wade, went on “The Dr. Phil Show” soon after the attacks to say his son showed signs of schizophrenia in the weeks before the attacks. Jupiter police reports show Harrouff’s mother, Mina, called police to say her son was claiming to have superpowers and that he was immortal in the days leading up to the stabbings.
Internet searches conducted by Harrouff, and released by the state attorney’s office, showed he was questioning his own sanity in the days before the attacks.
Harrouff searched questions on Google such as “How to know if you’re going crazy” and “Can we really control more than we think?” Documents also show he opened an article on the WebMD site entitled, “What ‘Am I Crazy’ Really Means.” Other searches included, “hearing things in my sleep” and “obsessive thoughts.”
Just before Harrouff was arrested on Oct. 3, Dr. Phil McGraw interviewed Harrouff from his hospital bed at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was recovering.
In the interview, Harrouff told Dr. Phil about weird dreams and voices he had heard.
“Well, I had memories of what the incident was. And I remember my feet were handcuffed to the hospital bed and there being an officer inside the room. So I knew something wasn’t right,” Harrouff said in the interview. “I didn’t know if it was reality or a dream. It’s like waking up from a nightmare.”
Harrouff’s attorneys argued those recordings should not be released to the public because they would bring prejudice to their client, but Judge Lawrence Mirman ruled the tapes could be released and that there was nothing detrimental to the defense’s case, such as a confession.
Recently, it was uncovered there were additional recordings from the interview with “Dr. Phil,” so the state requested for those videos to be part of the evidence. Again, Harrouff’s defense attorneys are trying to delay the release of the recordings and say that the video provided to the state by Dr. Phil’s production company is still not a complete and unedited copy. Mirman has allowed the defense to subpoena for any additional recordings to become part of the record.
It’s unclear if any additional video has been provided or when that would be available for the public to view. The defense intends to ask the judge also to bar those recordings from public release.