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Judge to decide where man accused of attempted murder will be locked up

Avery Latham in Spokane County Superior Court on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (Rachel Alexander / The Spokesman-Review)
Avery Latham in Spokane County Superior Court on Thursday, April 21, 2016. (Rachel Alexander / The Spokesman-Review)

A prosecutor and defense attorneys agree Avery Latham choked a woman unconscious at an East Central home in 2014, then put her in a recycling bin and slit her throat.

But Latham’s attorneys say the 24-year-old man, who has no prior felony convictions, should be found not guilty by reason of insanity because he has schizophrenia and was experiencing auditory hallucinations from a demon named Quin, who told him to kill his victim.

Spokane County Superior Court Judge Maryann Moreno heard closing arguments Thursday in Latham’s bench trial on charges of attempted murder, second-degree assault and kidnapping. Police arrested Latham early last January after the woman, who survived the ordeal, woke up in the hospital and identified him as her attacker.

A bench trial is a case in which a judge, not a jury, determines a defendant’s guilt.

The victim testified at trial that Latham, who was a stranger to her, came into her bedroom at a house where she lived with other friends, prosecutor Dale Nagy said. The two were talking and Latham began touching her thigh. When she pushed his hand away and said she wanted to go upstairs, he began choking her until she passed out, Nagy said.

After that, fearing he would be caught if the woman identified him, Latham wrapped a shirt around her neck and tightened it, Nagy said. Latham put her body in a sleeping bag, put that in a recycling bin and wheeled her to the yard of an abandoned house, where he dumped her and slit her throat.

Nagy said Latham told detectives he figured the woman would “bleed out.” He sliced through a muscle in her throat, but stopped less than an eighth of an inch away from the jugular vein and carotid artery.

Latham’s public defender, Kevin Griffin, said his client was not reacting in anger to his advances being rejected, but was suffering from severe hallucinations.

“Mr. Latham needs to be in a secure facility. He needs to be locked up. The question is where,” Griffin said.

If he’s found not guilty by reason of insanity, Latham would be committed to a forensic ward at Eastern State Hospital in Medical Lake.

Court documents show Latham was first diagnosed with an unspecified schizophrenia disorder last year after a court-ordered evaluation at Eastern State Hospital. He was found competent to stand trial following three months of treatment at the hospital. But a later report from Dr. William Grant, an Eastern State forensic psychiatrist, said Latham did not meet diagnostic criteria for schizophrenia and instead said he was malingering, or faking illness.

Nagy argued Latham still knew right from wrong and was aware of his actions and their consequences when he attacked his victim. Unlike someone who hears the voice of God telling them to kill, Nagy said, Latham knew Quin was evil.

“It’s not God causing him confusion,” Nagy said. Rebutting Griffin’s argument, he added, “When people do things that are wrong, they always want to blame someone else.”

Griffin relied on expert testimony from another psychiatrist, Dr. Matt Layton, who agreed with the original diagnosis of schizophrenia. The victim, Griffin said, testified Latham was “absolutely devoid of expression while choking her,” behavior consistent with that diagnosis. He’s also been harming himself in jail by banging his head against the wall of his cell and, at one point, swallowing a razor blade based on instructions from Quin, Griffin said.

“Schizophrenia is not self-imposed. This is a genetic disorder,” Griffin said.

Latham appeared similarly emotionless in court and sat mostly unmoving with his mouth open as the attorneys presented arguments.

Moreno said she would review all the evidence thoroughly and contact the attorneys when she’s reached a verdict.

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