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Michael Brown found not guilty by reason of insanity in killing of stepfather

Michael Brown Murder Trial Begins
Michael Brown Murder Trial Begins
Published: Feb. 23, 2022 at 4:18 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 23, 2022 at 7:04 PM EST
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ROCKY MOUNT, Va. (WDBJ) - A Franklin County judge has found Michael Brown not guilty by reason of insanity for the killing of his stepfather, Rodney Brown, in 2019, and five other felony charges. They include: Use of a firearm while committing murder, larceny of a firearm belonging to Rodney Brown, use of a firearm while committing burglary, and stealing Rodney Brown’s credit card.

The judge made the ruling at the end of a bench trial based on several doctors finding evidence that Brown suffered from dissociative amnesia.

Brown faced one other charge, breaking and entering with intent of larceny, but that charge was handled with a plea agreement Wednesday afternoon. Michael pleaded no contest, but Judge Stacy Moreau found Michael guilty, and sentenced him to seven years, with all of that time suspended. As a convicted felon, Michael gives up his right to own a firearm, or ever petition in the future to own one.

During closing arguments for the bench trial that first began last Thursday, Franklin County Commonwealth’s Attorney A.J. Dudley argued the three doctors who evaluated Michael all reached different conclusions.

DSM5 was referenced multiple times, specifically a page that talks about how dissociative amnesia should be viewed cautiously during legal matters. Dudley also referenced what he called Michael’s “intense planning,” referring to notes Michael left when he was on the run.

Michael’s attorney, Debbie Caldwell-Bono, talked about the months of August - November of 2019 and how that is when he began experiencing “lost time” - where he was not aware of his actions and experienced hallucinations, even times when he was looking at himself in the mirror with a gun to his head, not knowing how he got there.

After the ruling, Caldwell Bono told WDBJ7, “No doubt she [the judge] made the right decision, that was what Michael needs, to go to a mental hospital, learn how to deal with illness. He’s been great, since he’s been on meds, and hopefully he won’t have to be in there too long. I think he showed, while he was on the run, that society doesn’t have to fear him. There were so many things he could have done he could’ve taken out so many law enforcement officers, hiding in the attic when they swarmed in, he wished no one ill will, there was so much he could’ve done. Not Michael, it was the other guy.”

Dudley said, “Our job was to present that evidence and then of course you had the sub chapter that involved the sanity component - two doctors for different reasons reached similar conclusion. I feel we presented in a thorough manner; that was the number one goal and let the justice system work its way in the best way possible.”

The next step for Michael is an evaluation from the commissioner of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services - that report will be given to the court within 45 days.

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