Attorneys give final arguments in Jason Schuller murder case
March 22, 2018
Jurors in the murder trial of Jason Schuller will begin deliberations Monday, determining whether Schuller was legally insane when he fatally shot William Tackett.
Schuller was convicted in December of first-degree murder in the death of Tackett, 67. However, jurors in that trial could reach no decision about whether Schuller — who's pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity — was legally sane at the time.
That impasse led attorneys to retry the issue of Schuller's sanity only. He remains convicted of murder.
Testimony in the retrial ended Thursday, leading attorneys on both sides to argue their case to the jury.
Deputy Public Defender Micah Pierce told jurors Schuller's behavior in the days before Tackett's shooting show his unstable mental state. He left Omaha, Nebraska, without telling his sister, leading her to file a missing person report. He drove to California with no driver's license or cell phone, and acted strangely when speaking to Winnemucca, Nevada, officers, making religious statements.
Schuller believed that Tackett was possessed by demons when he shot him on March 20, 2016. Additionally, he thought Tackett was attacking him with a knife.
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"Mr. Schuller had a perception that he was possibly dealing with his friend and possibly dealing with a much more sinister force," Pierce said.
Evidence shows Schuller had a mental disease or defect at the time, and couldn't understand the legality or morality of his actions, the defense attorney added.
Pierce dismissed the claims of Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh, that substance abuse explains Schuller's behavior, calling that theory not credible.
"Mr. Schuller did not decide to kill his friend because he got high," Pierce said. "The statement that William Tackett poisoned him for demonic reasons is a delusional statement."
Arguing to jurors, Walsh said Schuller's defense attorneys have the burden of proving he was insane when he shot Tackett. The defense must prove Schuller had a mental disease and they failed.
"The defendant wants you to think that he's sick," Walsh said. "He wants you to think there's something wrong with him, when in reality he's just bad."
Walsh detailed what he said were eight different stories about the shooting. The stories started with Schuller's claim he didn't know Tackett and ended with the claim Lucifer had possessed his friend.
Psychological tests showed Schuller was lying about a mental illness. Schuller understood that killing Tackett was wrong, because he set the body on fire afterward, Walsh said.
"Someone that has a real mental health issue, they say exactly what they did because they don't believe they did anything wrong," Walsh said.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.