District judge to decide if man, found not guilty of murder by reason of mental illness, should be committed.
Randel Richardson's murder case is atypical, medical experts and lawyers agree. The Eden Prairie man was found not guilty of first-degree murder by reason of mental illness after drowning his baby in a laundry tub in 2010, but before then, he hadn't shown any signs often associated with a mentally dangerous person.
Now, a judge will weigh those factors and others as he decides whether Richardson will remain committed indefinitely to the state security hospital in St. Peter or be allowed back into society.
On Monday, as testimony concluded in Richardson's commitment trial, several psychologists described him as a man who doesn't have a long criminal history, substance abuse issues or a difficult childhood. He also is responsive to treatment, including medication.
That said, psychologist James Alsdurf told Hennepin County District Judge Jay Quam that Richardson meets the criteria for him to be committed as a mentally ill and dangerous patient to the security hospital, where he is now being held. If Richardson isn't treated in a well-managed and comprehensive treatment program, his behavior once released back into the community would be unpredictable, said Alsdurf.
"He doesn't understand what contributes to his mental illness," said Alsdurf, whom the prosecution hired to review Richardson's mental status.
After closing statements Monday, Quam gave no timeline for a decision, but prosecutor George Widseth said a ruling would most likely be issued in a week.
Earlier this month, the judge heard testimony from Richardson and his wife, Karen, who spoke in support of her husband while also describing a "roller coaster" of emotions. Two other experts gave varying opinions of Richardson's mental status. Dr. Michael Farnsworth, a psychiatrist testifying for Richardson, said medication and therapy have restored him to the man he used to be. Richardson feels remorse about what happened and with medication and proper supervision, he should be able to make the transition, Farnsworth said.
Bruce Renken, a court-appointed psychologist, said there is still a risk Richardson could relapse into the psychotic state that led him to hold 6-month-old Rowan under a foot of water in a laundry tub until he stopped moving.
Richardson, 38, a Cargill supply chain analyst, has already testified about his struggles with depression. Richardson's attorney, Chris Petros, argued that Richardson should be placed in a less restrictive six-month commitment, with possible extensions, before he transitions back into society.
"There is no indication Richardson will hurt anybody else," Petros said Monday. "Three different experts gave three different opinions."
In his closing statement, Petros said Richardson saw a lot of professionals before he killed his son, but "none really took charge of his case." Prosecutor Widseth said Richardson had a history of being dishonest with those same professionals about taking his anti-psychotic medication in the months before his baby's death. Widseth said that although this is a rare case, that shouldn't prevent Richardson from being committed.
Quam asked Alsdurf directly what Richardson's chances of hurting somebody were if he weren't committed as mentally ill and dangerous. Alsdurf said he couldn't give an absolute prediction because Richardson's behavior is likely to be unpredictable if he leaves St. Peter without a gradual treatment plan.
"He has depression, but the symptoms are in remission," said Alsdurf. "He clearly believes his mental illness is gone, like it evaporated."
Richardson has unrealistic expectations about his support system if he were to be released from the hospital, including his relationship with his wife, said Alsdurf.
If the system breaks down, he could become "majorly depressed and become psychotic again. He could harm somebody again if he were to act in a dangerous and reckless way."
Quam told the court that his decision will not be an easy one. He wished Richardson and his family the best of luck as they move forward.
David Chanen 612-673-4465