Erie County’s top prosecutor “respectfully disagreed” Monday with a judge’s finding that Michael Moore was not criminally responsible for a double murder last year because he was suffering from mental disease.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III noted that while State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns found that prosecutors had proven Moore fatally shot his fiancée twice in the head and did the same to a friend two hours later, the judge found him legally insane.
The 32-year-old defendant had no history of psychiatric disease but had a 10-year history of cocaine abuse, had been diagnosed as cocaine-dependent, was on probation for felony cocaine possession and was found with cocaine when he was arrested hours after the fatal shootings, Sedita said.
In addition, a prosecution psychiatrist testified that Moore was not suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, as two other psychiatrists called by Moore’s attorney testified, but was under the influence of cocaine, the prosecutor said.
“All of a sudden on the night in question, a man with no psychiatric history becomes a raging schizophrenic?” Sedita asked at a news conference, as he questioned the verdict in the nonjury trial.
The prosecutor said the case points up a weakness in state law, which allows a defendant to opt for a nonjury trial while the prosecution has no say in the matter.
“In other words, the defendant selects how he will be tried in a state trial,” Sedita said. Under federal law, he said, both prosecution and defense must agree to a nonjury trial.
Sedita declined to speculate on whether a jury would have found Moore not criminally responsible because of mental disease.
The prosecution cannot appeal the verdict.
Moore will be committed to the custody of the state mental health commissioner for evaluation of his mental illness, followed by a court hearing to determine if he is dangerously mentally ill, and then assigned to a state psychiatric facility for treatment.
Moore’s mental state will be reviewed annually, and if it is determined he is no longer dangerously mentally ill, he could be released, subject to court approval.
However, his attorney, Andrew C. LoTempio, said he doesn’t believe that will ever happen because of the severity of Moore’s mental disease.
During the trial, LoTempio contended that Moore was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and could not be held criminally responsible because he didn’t understand the consequences and the wrongfulness of his actions.
Assistant District Attorney Paul E. Bonanno maintained that Moore was not suffering from mental disease but had a cocaine-induced psychosis and knew the consequences and wrongfulness of what he did.
Moore was charged in the slayings of Kayla Humphries, 30, at about 11 p.m. Aug. 9, 2013, in their Crestwood Avenue apartment, and Darrell Bailey, 31, after 1 a.m. Aug. 10, 2013, outside the Ferry Express Mini Mart on Bailey Avenue.
Moore and Humphries lived on Crestwood with their 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter. They became engaged in January 2013. After Moore fathered a child with another woman, he moved out in June 2013 into a house he owned and was rehabbing on Wyoming Avenue.
Prosecutors said Moore returned to the North Buffalo apartment and shot Humphries twice in the head as she lay sleeping in bed, then took their children to her mother’s home and left without saying a word.
Moore later found Bailey parked outside the convenience store, shot him twice in the head and drove away. Police tracked Moore’s car to the house on Wyoming, where he surrendered.
In his ruling, Burns cited the testimony of two psychiatrists – one hired by the defense and another by the prosecution – who examined Moore and found that he showed at least two symptoms of schizophrenia: delusions and withdrawal from society.
The delusions included his belief that Humphries was cheating on him, had taken out a life insurance policy on him and planned to kill him, and that Bailey, a promising rap singer, would not let him rap on an album he made.
The judge cited text messages between Humphries and Moore’s sister in the months before the slayings, expressing concern that Moore was losing touch with reality.
The judge questioned the testimony of a second prosecution psychiatrist who said Moore was suffering not from schizophrenia but from a cocaine-induced psychosis that caused his delusions.
After the verdict, LoTempio said the case was devastating for the families of both the defendant and the victims, who were in the courtroom to hear the outcome.
He said the couple’s children have been in the custody of Humphries’ family.