Insanity defense fails Schleicher

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 26, 2002

OWATONNA &045; Roger L. Schleicher was psychotic when he killed Jack Johanssen in Ellendale in December of 2000, but he knew his act was wrong, a judge ruled Thursday. The ruling means Schleicher’s insanity plea was rejected and he has been found guilty of first-degree murder.

&uot;Although the evidence is close, the court finds defendant did not meet his burden of persuasion on this issue,&uot; wrote Judge William A Johnson. &uot;Defendant, although psychotic, knew his act was wrong.&uot;

The court found that Schleicher suffered from delusions &045; he apparently thought Johanssen was part of a Chinese conspiracy to take over the world, and that he was bugging his house and threatening him in other ways &045; but that in the end, his conversation with police after the crime demonstrated that he was looking for an excuse to explain his crime. Schleicher told police that Johanssen was threatening him, then recanted that story and said he had lied to make the killing look like self-defense.

Email newsletter signup

&uot;It appears this story is more consistent with an attempt by the defendant to excuse or explain acts that he knew were wrong rather than a reference to an act which he did not understand was morally wrong,&uot; the judge wrote.

An earlier trial found Schleicher guilty of the crime, but the second stage was convened to determine whether Schleicher was insane at the time of the brutal shooting murder. If the court had found him not guilty by the reason of insanity, he would have be sent to a medical institution, instead of prison.

On Dec. 29, around 11 a.m., Scleicher shot Johanssen, his best friend, with a shotgun five times, then reloaded and shot him a sixth time in the head.

The second phase of trial last week was about his criminal responsibility. To win an acquittal, the defense tried to prove that Schleicher did not know what he was doing was wrong.

Defense attorney Greg Colby asserted that Schleicher had no ability to distinguish his delusion and reality, and the murder occurred upon his mental illness.

Medical records introduced by doctors in the three-day trial showed that Schleicher had acute paranoid schizophrenia and had been in and out of a psychiatric institution in St. Peter since 1992.

His last release from the institution before the murder was in June of 2000. Colby emphasized that Schleicher’s mental condition deteriorated since then toward the end of that year. Schleicher talked to the doctors that he thought Johanssen was imposing threats on him.

Prosecutor Douglas Ruth contended that Schleicher knew enough about the nature of his act and its wrongness.

He raised points that Schleicher:

– Was trying to evade responsibility for the murder when he reported it to the police.

– Had an argument with Johanssen over telephone before the shooting.

– Called the police asking if shooting an intruder to his property is legal. He was informed that he cannot do it.

– Was asking the definition of insanity defense after the murder.

Schleicher waived his rights to have a jury trial.

In the end, Johnson said there was no doubt the murder was related to Schleicher’s mental illness, but that doesn’t remove his responsibility for the crime.

&uot;(The) defendant’s delusions caused him to increasingly fear and dislike Mr. Johanssen, and the delusions led him to kill Mr. Johanssen in a brutal manner,&uot; Johnson wrote. &uot;Defendant has not met his burden of persuasion, however, to show that the mental illness caused him either to be unaware of the nature of his act or to not know it was wrong.&uot;

Schleicher faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without possibility of parole.