Psychiatric expert says murder defendant was ‘out of his mind’ - The Buffalo News

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Psychiatric expert says murder defendant was ‘out of his mind’

MAYVILLE – A forensic psychologist testified Wednesday that Jason Wells, who is on trial in the murder of an elderly woman, was “clearly someone who is out of his mind.”

Dr. Charles Ewing, testifying in Chautauqua County Court, said that while he does not believe that Wells meets the legal definition of insanity, he believes his emotional condition at the time of the crime was extreme.

“The act is repulsive,” he said.

Wells, 37, formerly of Fredonia, is charged with second-degree murder in the brutal slaying of his 81-year-old Fredonia neighbor, Ruth Fisk, in February 2010.

“It is anger well beyond almost any other killing I have ever seen,” said Ewing, who is a professor at the University at Buffalo. He told jurors that Wells’ state of mind at the time he allegedly murdered Fisk fit the definition of “extreme emotional disturbance.”

If jurors agree with the finding, Wells could get a sentence related to a charge of first-degree manslaughter, which could bring him a lower sentence. The murder charge could mean 25 years to life in prison. 

Jurors heard more than an hour of notes from Ewing’s examinations and those of other mental health professionals who reportedly met with Wells before and after the homicide.

The district attorney’s team is expected to cross-examine the witness this afternoon. 

Earlier in the day, jurors were kept from the courtroom while Chautauqua County Judge John T. Ward reviewed two video tapes of Ewing’s psychiatric appointments that were conducted with the defendant.

Defense Attorney Lyle Hajdu asked Ward to admit the tapes into evidence.

Ewing said he wanted to use the videos to supplement his testimony on Wells’ emotional and psychiatric condition.

Hajdu’s defense has been that Wells was suffering from extreme emotional disturbance or was insane at the time of the murder.

Ward did not admit the tapes. He said Ewing has testified without the benefit of video and repeated that Ewing said he thought that videotaping during examinations sometimes caused a person to react differently.

Assistant District Attorney Grace Hanlon cross-examined Ewing, who conceded he was missing medical records on Wells – including drug and alcohol treatment from Tri-County Hospital in Gowanda, which were destroyed in the 2009 flood.

Ewing also conceded that he did not interview some people who were part of Wells’ life, including a girlfriend and stepfather, and that some of his background on Wells came from his mother – not medical records.

“Isn’t it rational that [Wells] might have got drunk, got mad and killed somebody?” asked Hanlon.

Ewing agreed that was possible.

Jurors are expected to hear testimony today from another mental health professional and Wells’ former girlfirend.

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