August 19, 2010

Murder suspect mentally ill, says attorney

By Trevor Maxwell tmaxwell@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND -- The lawyer for Shawn Garland said Wednesday that the 25-year-old murder suspect has a long history of mental illness, which may have played a role in the stabbing death of Richard Meyers last week in Garland's apartment on Grant Street.

Garland is being held without bail on a single count of murder. He made a brief appearance Monday in Cumberland County Superior Court to hear the charge against him. Prosecutors expect to seek an indictment from a grand jury early next month.

"The mental health defense is clearly front and center," said J.P. DeGrinney, the lawyer appointed by the court to represent Garland.

DeGrinney hopes to have a psychologist meet with Garland at the jail in the next two weeks for a mental health examination.

"He has an extensive and well-documented history of mental health crises. He has been hospitalized for extensive periods of time, and he has been on the streets when he has not been hospitalized," DeGrinney said.

Another potential avenue for the defense is a self defense claim. DeGrinney said Garland suffered minor injuries during an altercation with Meyers before the stabbing on Aug. 12.

He also said Meyers, 58, was carrying a padlock and a chain, and apparently brought a bottle of whiskey with him to Garland's apartment.

"Shawn has already indicated to me that he feared for his safety," DeGrinney said.

Garland has been on suicide watch and is being held in the most secure pod at the jail, DeGrinney said.

Portland police have said that Garland and Meyers were acquaintances, and that Meyers was stabbed to death with a knife, but they have not elaborated or released other details about the crime. Police reports about the incident have been sealed by a court order.

Assistant Attorney General Leane Zainea, the prosecutor assigned to the case, declined to comment Wednesday, citing the impoundment of the documents.

Acquaintances of Garland have said he was well known in the area around the city's homeless shelter. He was occasionally called by the nickname "Schizo Shawn," and was known to be confrontational, although some friends said he was not a bad person.

Garland's criminal record includes convictions for three misdemeanor assaults, cruelty to animals and the felony of eluding an officer, as well as convictions for violating probation, all in Farmington.

He served 120 days in jail in 2008 for assault, violating bail conditions and violating probation.

 

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