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Defendant's psychotic state detailed.

Byline: Bill Bishop The Register-Guard

A remarkably powerful dose of methamphetamine one month before a fatal stabbing "connects up the dots" to understand why Truett John Watts, in a psychotic state, killed Randy Shane Wilkins in Florence last summer, a forensic psychologist told a Lane County jury on Wednesday.

The panel is weighing whether Watts suffered a severe mental illness, which may allow him to get treatment instead of hard prison time for the killing, or a psychosis induced by chronic drug use, which does not lessen a defendant's responsibility for crime.

Psychologist Eric Johnson said Watts, 18, told him about taking the powerful drug dose and said it "blew his mind."

Watts, a chronic methamphetamine user who started taking the drug at age 14, began hearing birds talking to him, thinking that television carried messages specifically for him, and began feeling he was being followed after taking the heavy dose, Johnson said.

In an interview with Johnson eight months after the crime, Watts expressed a clear connection between the heavy dose and the rapid mental decline reported by Watts' friends and family in the weeks before he killed Wilkins. Johnson said Watts told him he tried to quit drugs and his friends tried to get him to quit after the decline started.

Nevertheless, Watts continued smoking methamphetamine, and he was even seen using it with the victim a few days before the killing, Johnson said.

Johnson's testimony contradicted that of Dr. George Suckow, a psychiatrist with 40 years of experience treating paranoid schizophrenia and examining offenders for mental illness.

Suckow, testifying for the defense on Tuesday, discussed a range of symptoms to conclude Watt's drug use was incidental to his underlying mental illness.

Suckow listed characteristics of Watts that were consistent with nearly 50,000 people he has treated for paranoid schizophrenia, and said Watts was unable to understand the illegality of killing Wilkins.

Defense lawyer John Kolego, in cross examining Johnson, hammered on the fact that Johnson relied on second-hand reports of police and did not consider Watts' family history of schizophrenia.

The jury faces a complex set of possible decisions, ranging from a guilty verdict or a guilty-but-insane verdict for murder to a conviction for the lesser crime of second-degree manslaughter if it determines Watts was merely reckless in stabbing Wilkins.

The eight-woman, four-man jury began deliberating late Wednesday afternoon.
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Title Annotation:Crime
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Sep 23, 2004
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