EVERETT — An Everett mother tried to get help for her son. She was told that until he hurt himself or someone else, there wasn’t any help.
On Tuesday, in a Snohomish County courtroom, the woman waved to her son through a glass partition that separates inmates from the public. His hands were shackled.
Chad Patterson, 19, had hurt himself. He also hurt his neighbor, a 57-year-old man.
Patterson was accused of breaking into the man’s home Sept. 10 and repeatedly trying to stab him with an 8-inch kitchen knife.
Patterson was charged with attempted first-degree murder. If convicted, he faced up to 22 years in prison.
Superior Court Judge Ronald Castleberry on Tuesday acquitted Patterson of the charge. Three doctors concluded that at the time of the attack Patterson couldn’t understand that what he was doing was wrong. Castleberry found that there was evidence to support the defense’s position that Patterson was not guilty of the crime because he was legally insane at the time of the attack.
Castleberry ordered Patterson to be locked up indefinitely at Western State Hospital, receiving treatment.
Doctors believe the attack occurred while Patterson was experiencing his first psychotic break, said William Steffener, an attorney with the Snohomish County Public Defender’s Association.
Patterson threw himself through a window to get into the neighbor’s house. The older man fought off the teen and pushed him outside, only to have Patterson return a second time. Snohomish County sheriff’s deputies arrived as Patterson, bloodied and cut, was trying to get inside the man’s home a third time.
During the attack, Patterson said that God told him that the man needed to die. After he was arrested he told deputies that he was their god and demanded to be released from his handcuffs.
He explained that he’d been out walking his dog when he saw his neighbor watching him. Patterson believed the man as going to attack him, so he got a knife and went over to “take care” of the man.
Patterson was convinced someone had implanted a camera into his eye and a microphone into his ear. The delusions likely were symptoms of schizophrenia, Steffener said. At the time, Patterson hadn’t been diagnosed with a mental illness and wasn’t under the care of a mental health doctor.
“He’s on medication now. He is the nicest person,” Steffener said. “He feels safer at Western.”
Prosecutors agreed not to take the case to trial. That was based primarily on the doctors’ findings, Patterson’s lack of any previous criminal history and the circumstances of the incident, including no apparent motive for the attack.
“If he didn’t appreciate the wrongfulness of what he was doing because he’s mentally ill, it makes sense that he’s in the mental health system instead of the prison system,” Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Ed Stemler said.
The insanity defense is rarely pursued, the lawyers said. Even more unique is to have the decision made by a judge, not a jury.
“They usually go to trial and it’s a battle of the experts,” he said.
Under the current law, it is nearly impossible to meet the threshold to prove someone is legally insane at the time of the alleged offense, Steffener said. Additionally, there are offenders who won’t acknowledge that they are living with a mental illness and won’t allow their attorneys to pursue an insanity defense.
On the other hand, Stemler said, just because a person has a mental illness doesn’t mean they are legally insane, Stemler said.
“It doesn’t fit as a defense very often,” he said.
Patterson’s case was clear cut from the beginning, Steffener said.
“He didn’t know right from wrong at the time,” the public defender said. “It’s too bad he couldn’t have gotten help before he got hurt” and his neighbor was hurt.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463, email@example.com.