Court affirms rejection of insanity defense in “exorcism” murder

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld a jury’s rejection of an insanity defense in the case of a Fort Wayne woman who suffocated her 3-year-old son by forcing him to drink oil and vinegar because he was possessed by a demon.

WISH TV reports

The court’s 17-page ruling was issued Thursday and involves Latisha Lawson, who was convicted of murder in May of 2011.

In its findings, the court noted that there wasn’t sufficient evidence to prove Lawson was insane even though her actions were clearly bizarre. […]

Lawson claimed that God had given her a plan to exorcise the demon which required her to force all of the children in the household to drink a combination of olive oil and vinegar or “blessed oil”.  Hawkins agreed to the plan.

On a day in November of 2009, all of the children were given the “blessed oil”, which caused them to vomit.  When J.K. fought against drinking the mixture, he was held down by both Hawkins and Lawson.  In order to force J.K. to swallow the mixture, Lawson held her hand over his mouth for five to 10 minutes until he stopped breathing.  Lawson told K.K. to say “bye” to J.K.  She later claimed she expected the 3-year-old boy to come back to life.

J.K.’s body was placed on Hawkins bed for about a month while the two women continued to sleep in the bed next to it.  The body was later moved to a closet and after K.K. noticed a bad smell coming from there, J.K.’s body was moved to a plastic bin. […]

In December of 2010 when police came to check on the welfar of the children, Hawkins told officers that a child had been killed in her apartment a year earlier and that the boy had been placed in a plastic bin.  After police located Lawson, she initially told them J.K. had been adopted.  But she then changed her story by saying the child had been possessed.  After Lawson consented to a search, police found J.K.’s partially mummified body in a plastic bag.

In January of 2011, Lawson was charged with murder.  She filed a notice that she planned to use an insanity defense.  During her trial, two doctors testified that Lawson was able to determine right from wrong. […]

The appeals court ruled that Lawson’s behavior in this case admittedly was highly bizarre. Her actions concerning the “exorcism” and retention of J.K.’s body thereafter were confirmed by three independent eyewitnesses. The court noted that the supreme court has affirmed the rejection of an insanity defense even “where the crimes appear to have been completely irrational. ”

In June 2011, Lawson was sentenced to 62 years in prison.

In September, 2011, Lawson’s roommate Natasha Hawkins was sentenced as an accomplish in the boy’s death to 30 years in prison.

Read the Appeals Court Ruling PDF file
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This post was last updated: Dec. 16, 2016