Judge to Rule on Insanity Verdict in Midtown Shooting Trial

Marcus K. Garner, Atlanta Journal Constitution, January 30, 2013

A Fulton County judge will rule Thursday on whether to give the jury a third verdict option in the trial of a former Midtown security guard accused in a deadly 2011 shooting spree in Midtown.

Superior Court Judge Kelly A. Lee will hear from experts who evaluated Nkosi Thandiwe Wednesday night to determine if his mental state during the shooting spree was so disturbed that a jury could find him “not guilty by reason of insanity.”

Nkosi Thandiwe

Nkosi Thandiwe

Thandiwe’s attorney made the last-minute request Wednesday after his client testified, admitting to fatally shooting Brittney Watts amid a trance-like state.

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“It was almost like watching myself in action,” Thandiwe told a Fulton County jury on the second day of his murder trial. “I tell her to get out of (her) car. She screams. I fire. She drops to the ground.”

Brittney Watts

Brittney Watts

Thandiwe, 23, also confessed from the witness stand that he shot two other women that day—Tiffany Ferenczy and Lauren Garcia, who is now paralyzed from her injuries—before driving off in Watts’ car.

“My mind was blank at the time,” he said.

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Typically, a defense attorney must notify the court during pretrial hearings of an intent to bring an insanity or mental illness defense.

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During his testimony Wednesday, Thandiwe suggested that his reason for even purchasing the gun he used in the shootings was to enforce beliefs he’d developed about white people during his later years as an anthropology major at the University of West Georgia.

“I was trying to prove a point that Europeans had colonized the world, and as a result of that, we see a lot of evil today,” he said. “In terms of slavery, it was something that needed to be answered for. I was trying to spread the message of making white people mend.”

He said the night before the shooting, he attended a so-called “Peace Party” intended to address his concerns about helping the black community find equal footing, but two white people were there.

“I was upset,” Thandiwe said. “I was still upset Friday. I took the gun to work because I was still upset from Thursday night.”

He even admitted to earlier that day getting angry enough on the job to shoot his supervisor.

“What my boss said to me …,” he told the jury, “that rage almost made me pull out my gun on him.”

A collective groan went up from the victims’ family members when Lee announced early Wednesday afternoon that she would allow a mental health expert to examine Thandiwe overnight and testify the next day as to whether there was sufficient evidence to add an insanity verdict to the jurors’ choices.

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[Editor’s Note: See here for more on this murder.]

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