The Jupiter man is accused of killing John Stevens III and Michelle Mishcon at their southern Martin County home in August 2016. He was 19 years old at the time.
STUART — A judge Thursday postponed the May 18 trial date for double-murder suspect Austin Harrouff as prosecutors seek to bring in their second mental-health expert to evaluate the Jupiter man.
During a hearing at the Martin County Courthouse, Circuit Court Judge Sherwood Bauer said he would set future court hearings and a new trial date after he rules on a motion filed by prosecutors Friday requesting the additional evaluation of Harrouff, whose attorneys have stated they plan to pursue an insanity defense.
Harrouff is accused of killing John Stevens III and Michelle Mishcon in August 2016 at the couple’s southern Martin County home, just north of the Palm Beach County border.
He is also accused of the attempted murder of Jeff Fisher, a neighbor of Stevens and Mishcon, who tried to intervene in the incident on Southeast Kokomo Lane.
During Thursday’s hearing, Harrouff’s attorneys objected to the state’s motion, arguing the findings of a mental-health expert previously hired by the state appear to match those of their own expert.
According to a court document, state-hired psychologist Gregory Landrum determined that Harrouff met the criteria for legal insanity after conducting a five-hour hour evaluation in October.
He recommended that the court consider for Harrouff for involuntary commitment to a secure forensic state hospital if it finds that he meets the criteria for legal insanity.
"It should be understood that the manifestation of Mr. Harrouff’s psychiatric illness resulted in a psychotic episode so acute that two innocent people were killed and another near fatally wounded," Landrum wrote.
"Such an event is highly unusual as people with mental illness are no more likely to commit violent crimes than ordinary members of the public."
Harrouff’s attorneys have argued that he suffered from an undiagnosed mental-health issues and said they will be using the insanity defense during his trial. A forensic psychologist hired by the defense said he believed Harrouff thought he was some type of dog or werewolf during the attacks.
During Thursday’s hearing, defense attorney Robert Watson described Landrum’s report as "a critical point in this case" as its findings appear to support those of the defense’s mental-health expert.
"This report, by the State’s own expert, Dr. Gregory Landrum, confirms what one of the country’s foremost forensic psychiatrists, Dr. Phillip Resnick, concluded a year ago: that Austin Harrouff was experiencing a severe psychotic illness ..... and was legally insane at the time of the homicides," defense attorney Nellie King told The Palm Beach Post in an email prior to Thursday’s court hearing.
Prosecutors last month filed a motion for Harrouff to be evaluated by Dr. Michael Gamache, a psychologist based in Tampa. King questioned the need Harrouff to undergo another evaluation.
"This process took a full year for the State’s expert to reach the same conclusion Austin was legally insane," she said. "I do not know what is to be gained by going through this process a third time."
Prosecutor Brandon White told the court that Gamache’s field of expertise is the area of neuropsychology and argued that state law gives prosecutors the ability to use more than one expert.
Bauer reserved ruling, asking both sides to submit legal briefs by March 13.
On the night of the attacks, deputies found Harrouff, then 19, biting Stevens on the face, according to Martin County Sheriff’s Office accounts.
Deputies needed a Taser and a dog to subdue him, the sheriff’s office said. Harrouff was taken to St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach after his apprehension and spent nearly two months there before being arrested and transferred to the Martin County Jail.
According to sheriff’s accounts, Harrouff on his way to the hospital told detectives he "ate something bad." When asked what he ate, Harrouff said "humans."
Staff writer Hannah Winston contributed to this story.
Listen to today's top stories from The Palm Beach Post: