BANGOR, Maine — Perley Goodrich Jr. was found guilty of manslaughter on Tuesday but escaped a murder conviction in the shooting death of his father. Goodrich also was found guilty of aggravated assault in the beating of this mother.
The jury, which consisted of eight women and four men, returned the verdict at 4:37 p.m. The same jurors are scheduled to return to the courtroom on Wednesday for the second phase of the trial, when they will decide whether Goodrich Jr. should be held not criminally responsible by reason of insanity. Their decision will mean the difference between a prison sentence and committal to the state’s mental hospital in Augusta.
Members of Goodrich Jr.’s family, including Sandra Goodrich, his mother, and Nancy Watson, his sister, who were in the courtroom Tuesday showed little if any visible reaction to the verdict. Sandra Goodrich declined requests for comment from reporters, stating that she prefers to wait until the second phase of the trial is complete.
“I’ll have something to say then,” she said.
Goodrich Jr., who has sat stone-faced and staring mostly at the defense table in front of him for the duration of the weeklong trial, sat silent and morose through the reading of the verdict, as well.
“I think Perley was a little confused about [the verdict],” defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein said after the verdict. “Maybe overnight he’ll realize he’s in a much better position now than he certainly was” before.
Manslaughter can bring a sentence of between zero and 30 years in prison, according to Maine law. A murder conviction results in a sentence of 25 years to life.
“The jury came up with a just verdict,” said Silverstein. “This would have been a very different case if Mr. Goodrich wasn’t trying to be responsible to the community and himself about getting help.”
At the core of Silverstein’s defense strategy was highlighting Goodrich Jr.’s diagnosed mental illnesses that stretch back more than 20 years. Several witnesses, including his mother and mental health workers, testified that Goodrich Jr. virtually begged for help in the days leading up to the killing of his father, Perley Goodrich Sr. Specifically, he sought a prescription for the anti-anxiety drug Klonopin, which Goodrich maintained worked for him for several years until he was taken off it in 2008 after marijuana was found in his system.
On Oct. 25, 2009, Sandra Goodrich returned home to find Perley Jr. with his bag packed and asking for a ride to the hospital. Goodrich Jr. was subsequently sent to Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center in Bangor but was released the following day on his own accord. That night he beat his mother with a pistol and then used that pistol to shoot his father to death.
Assistant Attorney General Andrew Benson, who prosecuted the case and urged the jury to return a guilty of murder verdict, said he wasn’t disappointed with the outcome.
“We always knew it was a toss-up between murder and manslaughter,” he said to reporters outside the courthouse.
Earlier in the day, closing arguments followed the same path of much of the trial’s testimony.
Benson argued that there was irrefutable proof that Goodrich Jr. murdered his father and severely assaulted his mother in their Newport home on Oct. 26, 2009. Benson said the defendant must have been making conscious decisions, which the prosecutor repeatedly called “goal-oriented conduct,” when he loaded and brandished a pistol, cocked it as is necessary with that model of revolver, pointed it at his father and fired.
“It was his conscious object to cause his father’s death,” Benson said during his closing argument. “The state is not required to disprove that Mr. Goodrich is mentally ill. That is not the issue. That is a sideshow, by and large.”
Silverstein attempted to rebut that notion with a detailed breakdown of Goodrich Jr.’s history of mental illness, which consists of numerous diagnoses. Silverstein focused on the time between May 2005 and October 2009, when Goodrich Jr.’s mental faculties deteriorated considerably, according to the testimony of several witnesses.
Silverstein argued that his client knew the medicine that worked for him was Klonopin. On the day of his father’s slaying, Goodrich Jr. walked out of an exam by a psychiatrist at Dorothea Dix Psychiatric Center after he thought she was unwilling to renew his Klonopin prescription. He was then given a taxi ride home to Newport.
Silverstein also faulted staff at Sebasticook Valley Hospital in Pittsfield for a failure to communicate warnings from Sandra Goodrich that her son was dangerous to others — though Silverstein pointed out that that information was available throughout Goodrich Jr.’s medical record.
“There was a systemic breakdown,” said Silverstein. “This could have been prevented. Ask yourself if it’s fair to place the highest degree of accountability on Mr. Goodrich when the state’s own system and the people in that system screwed up.”
Silverstein also argued that there is evidence Goodrich Jr. didn’t know what he was doing when he shot his father, a contention Benson took issue with on his rebuttal. The prosecutor said there is little question that Goodrich Jr. was or is mentally ill.
“That has nothing to do with whether he intentionally or knowingly murdered his father,” said Benson.