Friday, Nov. 6, 2015 – The woman accused of assaulting an Ohio State Highway Patrol Officer was found not guilty by reason of insanity today by Morrow County Common Pleas Court Judge Robert C. Hickson, Jr.
A handcuffed Antoinette Taylor appeared in court, along with her attorney Rolf Whitney, to face felony charges of assault on an officer.
The violent attack of the Ohio State Trooper was caught on camera as it happened on a Greyhound bus the evening of March 5, 2015. The video of the incident on the Greyhound bus can be viewed HERE.
The bus was bound for Columbus from Cleveland when the driver became concerned about Taylor’s behavior and pulled over on I-71 in Morrow County and called authorities.
State Trooper Tressa Winans responded to escort Taylor from the bus and, without warning, found herself under attack.
Trooper Winans suffered bruises and abrasions. Both she and Taylor were treated and released from the hospital.
Taylor, who lives in Cuyahoga County, has been held at a Columbus mental health facility since the March assault.
Taylor waived her right to a jury trial, paving the way for the judge to issue a ruling today. Hickson explained what the court needed to consider to make a ruling on the case.
“There are two prongs to this, one is the competency of the defendant and whether they are able to stand trial and assist counsel in their defense; the other question is whether or not the defendant was competent at the time of the incident.”
Hickson ruled in June that Taylor was competent to stand trial. The issue the judge was considering at today’s hearing was if the defendant was competent at the time of the assault.
The defense and the prosecution entered three joint exhibits of mental health evaluations for the judge to consider.
Hickson asked if there were additional items for consideration, to which Assistant Morrow County Prosecutor David Homer responded, “Yes, if it please the court, we previously provided a video to the court, and I believe the court has had the opportunity to review that. We wanted to stipulate to that as essentially our evidence in the case. It actually shows the offense in commission.”
“I hate to tell you this, but I have not seen it,” stated Hickson.
“I’m sorry, I thought the court had actually watched it,” Homer replied.
“No, nobody has given it to me, and I was never told I should be looking at it, so I never saw it,” responded Hickson.
“We have the audio visual to play in court… it is about 15 minutes long,” offered Homer.
“Well, if you are going to admit it, I should see it,” Hickson said.
Homer proceeded, “We are in essence stipulating to the commission of the offense. We believe that this case is one of confession and avoidance. There was an assault on the police officer. The video would show that. The agreement of the parties established that the only issue in mind is whether there is a culpable mental state on behalf of the defendant.”
“As far as the videotape is concerned, judge, we are stipulating that the elements of the defense are contained in the video,” Defense Attorney Rolf Whitney responded.
Hickson stated, “If you are doing that, I think probably you need to outline what the tape would show, and then I can take that into consideration if there is no objection, then I do not have to review the tape.”
There were no objections and the video was not shown in court.
The prosecution proceeded to outline what occurred on the tape and reviewed the mental health evaluations which determined that the defendant could not control her actions.
“We were skeptical,” noted Homer. “We rarely see the state forensic hospital state that essentially, with psychiatric certainty, that the person was not legally culpable because of her mental state at the time of the offense.”
‘She did not understand the wrongfulness of her actions?” the judge asked.
“Correct,” replied Homer, “She couldn’t control them essentially is what they were saying. Therefore she could not appreciate the wrongfulness of her actions. We did ask for a second opinion and it came to the same conclusion.”
The judge asked the defense if he had anything additional to which Whitney replied, “I don’t think he missed anything.”
The judge expressed that he had experience with the agencies that administered the mental health evaluations and they were credible.
“This is an extremely exceptional case when we have allegations of some type of mental defect or disease, it is difficult to assess,” Hickson said. “We are sympathetic to the trooper. We have the highest regard for the trooper despite the press in the last couple of years. I’m editorializing right now.”
The Judge asked the defendant a series of questions so that he could be certain that she understood today’s proceedings.
During the volley of questions, it was revealed that Taylor holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and a minor in Human Services. It was also revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder a few months before the March incident. She stated that she was on medication at the time, but not the medication she is currently on.
The judge asked her if she understood that her attorney has entered a not guilty by reason of insanity plea. She responded, “Yes.”
The judge explained that, after weighing all relevant information on both sides of the issue, he finds that Taylor was suffering from a mental defect or disease at the time of the assault and did not understand the wrongfulness of her actions at the time of the offense; therefore Taylor was not guilty by reason of insanity.
Homer shared that prior to the hearing, Taylor apologized to the trooper for her actions. The judge asked if the victim had anything she wanted to say to the court.
“I have nothing to say sir,” replied Winans.
The judge then asked the post commander if he wanted to make a statement. Lt. Leach stated, “Your honor, we will let the evidence be what it is and what the court is satisfied with.”
The judge ordered Taylor to be returned to the mental health facility where she has been held and receiving treatment since the incident. The judge stated that he has continuing jurisdiction in this matter and requested that he be apprised of how treatment is going, and be advised prior to release and a report provided to him, and he will determine if there needs to be another hearing at that time.
Reach Donna Carver at 419-946-3010, ext. 1804 or on Twitter@MorrCoSentinel.