Expert says murderer Jason Schuller was sane at time of fatal shooting
March 20, 2018
A Los Angeles psychologist who's appeared on television shows like "Most Evil" testified Tuesday in the Nevada County murder case of Jason Schuller, telling jurors Schuller was sane when he fatally shot William Tackett.
Dr. Kris Mohandie said he based his decision about Schuller on personal interviews, tests administered while in jail and a review of several reports and court transcripts. Mohandie testified he believes Schuller created some seven or eight different stories about what happened the night of Tackett's death. Additionally, the doctor said Schuller understood his actions and knew that shooting the 67-year-old Tackett was legally and morally wrong.
"March 20 of 2016, Jason Schuller was legally sane," Mohandie said.
The doctor's testimony came two years to the day after Schuller fatally shot Tackett in his Grass Valley home. Authorities say that Schuller set Tackett's body on fire and then fled to Sacramento, where he was arrested.
A jury in December convicted Schuller, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, of first-degree murder. However, it reached no decision about his sanity. That forced a retrial on that issue only. Schuller remains convicted of murder.
Many witnesses who testified in the first trial have returned to court since the second trial began earlier this month. Mohandie is a new witness, hired by prosecutors to evaluate Schuller and determine whether he was legally insane when he shot Tackett.
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According to Mohandie, Schuller exaggerated the effects of a mental illness on psychological tests. Reviewing reports and court transcripts, Mohandie said Schuller went from first denying any knowledge of the shooting to claiming Lucifer had possessed Tackett.
"There were numerous different stories or attempts at misdirection," Mohandie said.
Additionally, Mohandie pointed to Schuller's flight to Sacramento after the shooting and a moment when he placed a gun to his head. Both events show Schuller knew he did something wrong, the doctor testified.
Under questioning by Deputy Public Defender Micah Pierce, Mohandie said he's charging prosecutors $450 an hour, which is around $14,000 for 30 hours of work.
Pierce referenced an interview he said Mohandie gave about five years ago. In that interview Pierce claimed Mohandie said part of his career included ensuring victims' voices are heard. Mohandie said he likely made that statement.
"My role here is to do an evaluation of sanity, which I did," Mohandie said.
Pierce also asked Mohandie about Schuller's behavior in the days and weeks before Tackett's death.
Witnesses have testified that Schuller acted strangely during the time, thinking a friend in Omaha wanted to hurt him. Jurors saw a police video of Schuller taken a day before the shooting in Winnemucca, Nevada. Schuller said he thought police had fired a gun behind his head. He also made religious statements.
Mohandie said he didn't think Schuller's behavior before the shooting was relevant, because no crime had yet occurred.
"You don't think it's relevant?" Pierce asked, ending his questioning.
The trial resumes Thursday afternoon.
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.