OTTAWA — Psychiatric experts for the defense and prosecution offered competing interpretations of Michael Luebrecht’s mental health during the third day of his aggravated murder trial Thursday.
Day three of the trial held at the Putnam County Court of Common Pleas was a day of expert testimony as experts from both sides presented their opinions on Luebrecht’s past and current state of mind.
Luebrecht was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 for murdering his 13-month-old son. In 2017 he was granted a motion to withdraw his previous guilty plea and enter a not guilty plea, entering an affirmative defense of involuntary intoxication while under the influence of anti-depressant medication.
Dr. Peter Breggin, a Harvard graduate practicing psychiatry in Ithaca, New York, offered testimony for the defense that Luebrecht would never have committed the crime had he not been under the influence of anti-depressants that interfere with serotonin, a neural transmitter, in the brain. Anti-depressant medications are called serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Breggin said according to the FDA these medications can, in some people, cause severe side effects like increased suicidal thoughts and, in the case of Luebrecht, homicidal thoughts as well. He said Luebrecht’s belief was Satan wanted him to kill Joel Luebrecht and later, the day he committed the murder, the defendant’s sense of having to murder was a direct result of the anti-depressant medications.
Breggin said the doctors essentially overdosed him on SSRIs which caused him to have a psychotic break, with violent tendencies and delusions.
After Breggin’s testimony the prosecution experts, psychiatrists Drs. Thomas Sherman and Douglas Beech took the stand separately.
Sherman had performed an evaluation on Luebrecht in 2005 and two more in 2017 when the defendant was petitioning to change his plea. Beech also performed evaluations on Luebrecht.
Both experts denied that involuntary intoxication is an actual medically recognized condition, despite multiple states recognizing it as a viable legal defense.
Sherman said after evaluating Luebrecht his interpretation of the man’s condition is his obsessive compulsive disorder, which Luebrecht has had since age 27, had violent components his entire adulthood. In 1994, Luebrecht’s oldest son was born. At that time, the defendant told his psychiatrist at the time he having obsessive thoughts of his son suffocating.
The psychiatrist at the time and Sherman interpreted this as a sign of a violent ideation of Luebrecht hurting his son. Breggin said all literature of OCD patients says there is no violence presence in their condition; it’s the exact opposite. He said they are afraid of hurting others and this is what Luebrecht meant in his statement at the time.
Beech finds the entire concept of involuntary intoxication preposterous, he said. The only literature on the subject is Breggin’s and it isn’t a medically recognized condition.
Luebrecht’s trial concludes with closing statements at 8:30 a.m. Friday.
Reach Bryan Reynolds at 567-242-0362