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Judge reconsiders, to allow psychiatrist to take stand in case

Author(s): JOE CYAN JR. Date: January 30, 2010 Section: South LA. & Business

Calling the issue a “very tricky area of the law,” an apologetic judge reversed course Friday and said a Houston psychiatrist can testify on behalf of a Baton Rouge man who claims he was involuntarily intoxicated when he killed his ex-fiancee in 2008. State District Judge Tony Marabella’s ruling came a day after he refused to let Dr. Edwin Johnstone testify at the trial of 39-year-old Frederick Dominique Reed Jr.

Reed is charged with second-degree murder in the killing of Mia Reid, 31, and attempted second-degree murder in the wounding of Richard Kuti on Aug. 23, 2008, in separate apartments at the Ashley Oak complex on Rosenwald Road in Scotlandville.

The trial is scheduled to resume Monday. The jury heard no testimony Friday and was sent home before lunch.

The defense claims Reed is not criminally responsible for the alleged crimes because he had a violent reaction to the prescribed anti-depressant Lexapro.

Marabella, a former defense lawyer, refused Thursday to let Johnstone, a veteran psychiatrist, testify in part because Reed has not raised an insanity defense.

The judge, however, on Friday said that because Reed is using an intoxication defense he will allow Johnstone to testify.

“1 believe in trying to get things right. 1 think 1 was wrong yesterday,” he said from the bench. “I’m not certain I’m correct in ruling the way I do today, but I think it’s what I have to do.”

Marabella cautioned, however, that Reed’s attorneys must present evidence that Reed actually ingested the drug before Johnstone will be allowed to testify about the drug’s side effects.

“I’m not sure right now what I’m going to allow,” the judge added.

Tommy Damico, one of Reed’s attorneys, said he is pleased Marabella reconsidered and reversed himself.

“It’s a very unusual area of the law,” Damico said. “It’s a proper defense under the law.”

Bast Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III, himself a former defense lawyer, said afterward his office respects the judge’s decision but disagrees with it. He said the state 1 st Circuit Court of Appeal “more than likely” will be asked to review the ruling.

“I would like some guidance from the Supreme Court or the court of anneal,” Marabella said in court.

denied, state district court records in Baton Rouge indicate. A hearing on a permanent protective order was to have been held three days after the shooting.

A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.

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