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Jury can hear statements of confessed SD killer

  • July 26, 2013 - 5:15 PM

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A judge ruled Friday that statements made by a man who admitted killing an elderly Sioux Falls woman in her bed can be heard by the jury that will decide his fate.

James McVay, 43, has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to first-degree murder in the July 2011 stabbing death of 75-year-old Maybelle Schein. A jury will decide whether he gets life in prison or a death sentence.

His attorneys said statements McVay made following his arrest in Madison, Wis., hours after the killing should be thrown out because McVay was sleep-deprived, under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and influenced by his psychosis.

Circuit Judge Peter Lieberman said that while the comments McVay made to law officers were disturbing, he "articulates them in an intelligent way" that would suggest no hint of psychosis during the interview process, the Argus Leader reported (http://argusne.ws/1bs5trx ).

Lieberman said his biggest concern was determining whether McVay had slipped into a psychotic state during the two times he gave statements to law officers about killing Schein, but the man in the interview recordings exhibited a cool, conversational demeanor.

"There was no evidence that at the time of the interview that (McVay) was experiencing delusions that would take away an intelligent decision to waive his rights," the judge said.

McVay told investigators and a television reporter that he killed Schein and stole her car as part of a plot to drive to Washington, D.C., and assassinate President Barack Obama on a golf course. He also said he would kill again and wanted to be put to death.

Recordings of McVay's statements were played Thursday during the first day of a two-day hearing on whether the statements would suppressed.

"I'm really trying to work this in a way so you guys will be able to get me the death sentence, and I won't appeal it or anything like that," McVay said from jail the day after the killing, according to the recordings.

McVay also blamed the South Dakota Department of Corrections for Schein's death. He said prison officials allowed him to get out despite his psychosis.

After spending two months in a prison cell alone for disciplinary reasons, he had been placed in a minimum-security unit and walked away just hours before the killing.

In the hours and days after his arrest, McVay offered dozens of unsolicited statements about the slaying. He admitted to struggling with mental illness but denied that his psychosis contributed to the crime.

"I know perfectly well what I'm doing," McVay said. "I'm gonna kill and kill and kill again."

Defense attorney Traci Smith said McVay's mental state and his drug use leading up to his arrest made his statements involuntary.

"He could not weigh the cost and benefits of the statements he was making due to his psychosis," she said.

Minnehaha County State's Attorney Aaron McGowan told the judge there is no proof that McVay's statements were anything but voluntary. McVay made many of the statements without being asked and continued speaking after being read his right to remain silent, the prosecutor said.

McGowan also said McVay appeared calm, lucid and articulate while talking.

"There is no indication of any psychosis," McGowan said.

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