BANGOR, Maine — Nancy Watson wants only one thing from her brother, Perley Goodrich Jr.: an explanation.
Why did he beat their mother, Sandra Goodrich, so savagely that she still suffers the physical effects some 17 months after the attack? And most of all, why did he shoot and kill their father, Perley Goodrich Sr.? Following convictions Tuesday and Wednesday, Goodrich Jr. will have to give her those answers through the bars of a prison cell, if he ever has the chance.
“I’d like to know why he did it,” Watson said to reporters Wednesday after a jury found that Goodrich was sane at the time of the crimes and therefore criminally responsible. “I’d like for him to tell me why, face to face. Not through a judge.”
The jurors’ decision, which they delivered at 4:47 p.m. Wednesday after more than three hours of deliberations, effectively seals his fate in a prison cell as opposed to a mental hospital, where his attorney argued he should be. On Tuesday, Goodrich Jr. avoided a murder conviction but was found guilty of manslaughter and aggravated assault.
Goodrich’s mental health was a core theme during the six-day trial. The jury apparently was swayed by arguments by the defense that Goodrich’s longstanding mental illness, which by all accounts deteriorated to an all-time low in late October 2009, contributed to his beating his mother and shooting his father. Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case, strongly argued for a murder conviction, but the jury returned a manslaughter conviction instead. The question during the second phase of the trial Wednesday was whether Goodrich was sane at the time of the crimes.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein counted Tuesday’s verdict as a victory, but was clearly unhappy Wednesday with the jury’s unanimous finding that Goodrich is criminally responsible for his crimes.
“In all likelihood Perley is facing a Department of Corrections sentence of years,” Silverstein said after Wednesday’s hearing. “Prisoners don’t receive much if any mental health treatment while they’re in prison.”
Asked whether Goodrich Jr. will be allowed to continue taking the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin, which he so desperately sought during the summer and fall months of 2009, Silverstein said he wouldn’t.
“All the Department of Corrections does is put [mentally ill prisoners] on meds to keep them placid,” said Silverstein.
Goodrich has not yet been sentenced nor has his sentencing date been scheduled. The manslaughter conviction carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Testimony during Wednesday’s proceedings by mental health experts for the prosecution and defense differed barely at all from their testimony earlier this week.
John Lorenz, a Bangor-based psychologist, argued that Goodrich lacked the ability to make sane decisions. Months without any psychiatric medication, two trips to the hospital in the days prior to the killing, several diagnosed mental diseases and a severe lack of sleep all contributed to Goodrich’s inability to make rational decisions.
“It’s hard for any of us to know precisely what was going on in his mind,” said Lorenz. “What we do know is that he was very frustrated and that that frustration had been building over several days. To know if something is right or wrong, you have to be able to assess the situation you’re in.”
Dr. Debra Baeder, a forensic psychiatrist with the State Forensic Service, rebutted Lorenz’s testimony, just as she had done during the first phase of the trial earlier this week. She said the law is very specific about what insanity is, and that Goodrich’s mental illness doesn’t qualify.
“He had perceptions of his reality that were strange,” said Baeder. “What was clear to me is that he was still aware of his environment, still aware of his interactions and that his interactions were reality-based.”
In his closing argument, Benson repeated Baeder’s opinion that Goodrich’s mind was troubled and disturbed but not insane.
“The law is not designed to protect you from garden-variety mental illnesses,” said Benson. “That’s what we have here, a garden-variety mental illness.”
Silverstein told the jury that a finding of not criminally responsible by reason of insanity would not absolve Goodrich.
“Whatever your verdict, criminally responsible or not criminally responsible, Perley Goodrich Jr. will be held accountable to the system,” he said. After the trial was over, Silverstein expressed pity for his client, who according to testimony during the trial had begged for help from his family and mental health professionals on multiple occasions.
“I’ve been working with him since the date of this occurrence and he’s been sitting in a jail cell all this time,” Silverstein told reporters. “None of his family members have contacted him. To have your family member sitting in a jail cell all this time when the failure of the mental health system is at fault is kind of heartbreaking to me.”