MIDDLETOWN, Conn. — A Massachusetts man was found not guilty by reason of insanity Friday in the 2009 shooting death of a Wesleyan University student after a trial that portrayed him as anti-Semitic and mentally ill as he stalked and harassed the young woman.
A three-judge panel agreed with the defense for 32-year-old Stephen Morgan, and ordered a psychiatric report. The judges will commit Morgan to Connecticut’s maximum-security psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane, most likely after receiving the report in February.
Morgan, of Marblehead, Mass., was charged with murder and other crimes in the May 2009 death of 21-year-old Johanna Justin-Jinich. The college junior from Timnath, Colo., was shot seven times while working at a bookstore cafe near the liberal arts school in Middletown.
During the trial, Morgan rocked back and forth as he sat at the defense table. But he sat motionless Friday as the verdict was read. His lawyer said afterward that he would now get the mental health treatment he needs.
“Key to this case is that the psychiatrist hired by Connecticut found that my client could not conform his actions to the law,” attorney Richard Brown told reporters after the verdict was read.
Daniel Jinich, the victim’s father, did not comment on the verdict but, in a statement, expressed thanks to the prosecutors, Wesleyan University and others for their support and sympathy. Wesleyan students and staff who attended the trial declined to comment.
During the trial, Madelon Baranoski, a forensic psychologist and Yale University professor, testified that Morgan suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. She said he has delusional thoughts that include prison guards reading his mind, video of his thoughts being shown to his family, and fellow inmates monitoring him from strategic locations.
She said Morgan’s mental illness wouldn’t be immediately apparent to others.
Morgan apparently met Justin-Jinich at New York University in the summer of 2007, police say. Justin-Jinich was working at The Red and Black Cafe inside Broad Street Books on May 6, 2009, when Morgan walked in disguised in a wig and glasses and shot her seven times with a handgun before fleeing.
Prosecutor Timothy Liston argued in closing Friday that Morgan was motivated by “old-fashioned hate.”
“And she’s everything that he hates,” Liston said. “She’s successful, she’s beautiful, she’s intelligent, she’s Jewish, she goes to Wesleyan … he cyberstalks her, he physically stalks her while in disguise …”
Justin-Jinich would have graduated from Wesleyan last year. She was a 2006 graduate of the Westtown School, a Quaker boarding school outside Philadelphia.
Wesleyan spokesman David Pesci said in an email statement Friday that while the court’s ruling “brings to a close a chapter in this awful story, the memory of Johanna, who brought such joy to so many, lives on here at Wesleyan.”
While attending Wesleyan, Justin-Jinich filed a harassment complaint against Morgan for unwanted and insulting phone calls and emails, but ended up not pursuing criminal charges.
At the trial, a police detective read aloud an email Justin-Jinich sent to Morgan in December 2008. She wrote: “I am so tired of you STALKING me. Leave me alone! … YOU are the type of person that women take self-defense classes to protect themselves against.”
A day before Justin-Jinich’s email, Morgan wrote an email to her saying, “When you were upset about not communicating anymore, I thought it was because you needed me. But it was all stupid because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing at the time.”
In her response, Justin-Jinich said she’d go to police if she ever saw him in person, and she would defend herself if necessary.
She wrote: “I don’t know what went wrong in your childhood or your adult life thus far to make you feel like you have some right to sexually harass me, to track me down on my various email accounts, to feel like you know me when you actually have no idea who I am or what I am capable of to make sure you never talk to me again. You don’t deserve to know me and you never will. So stop littering my life.”
Before Morgan’s arrest the day after the shooting, police announced that he left a journal in the bookstore in which he had written about killing Justin-Jinich, going on a shooting spree on campus and targeting Jews.
Justin-Jinich’s family is Jewish; her grandmother was a Holocaust survivor. Authorities also said they found an infamous anti-Semitic book, “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” in Morgan’s motel room.
Authorities say Morgan wrote in his journal about all the “beautiful and smart” people at Wesleyan, a liberal arts school of about 3,000 students in Middletown, about 18 miles south of Hartford.
Morgan was at a Meriden convenience store, about 10 miles from the crime scene, when he surrendered to police after seeing his photo in a newspaper. It was late in the evening on the day after the killing. He was charged with murder, intimidation due to bias and carrying a pistol without a permit.
Brown said Friday that Morgan will be committed to the maximum-security Whiting Forensic Institute in Middletown.