CLEARWATER, Fla. — After nearly three weeks, the murder trial of John Jonchuck is in the hands of the jury.
After a couple of hours, the jury recessed for the night. They will resume at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
Jonchuck is on trial in the murder of his 5-year-old daughter, Phoebe, whom he dropped off the Dick Misener Bridge in 2015. The question the trial is supposed to answer: Was he insane when he did it?
The prosecution went first during closing arguments Monday in the John Jonchuck murder trial. Unlike the defense, their strategy has been simple and straightforward. They believe Jonchuck was in touch with reality when he threw his five-year-old daughter Phoebe off the Dick Misener bridge to her death.
During closing arguments, Paul Boland, one of the attorneys for the prosecution relied on three key points: a police officer witnessed Jonchuck kill his daughter, Jonchuck was jealous of his mother and Phoebe’s mother, and despite his apparent delusions, Jonchuck did not jump off the bridge with his daughter.
“He’s still here, he didn’t jump, he didn’t follow the delusion,” Boland told the jury. “If the delusion was that strong that he would kill his daughter over it then he would have jumped too.”
Jessica Manuele, one of Jonchuck’s lawyers made her final pitch to the jury shortly after Boland. She and her team have not disputed Jonchuck’s guilt, instead they want the jury to believe he was insane when he was on top of that bridge.
Early on in her closing argument, Manuele told the jury, “He killed his daughter. It only makes sense that at that moment, he thought he was protecting his daughter. It doesn’t make sense and it will never make sense because it’s insanity.”
Manuele then brought out the massive Swedish Bible Jonchuck had with him leading up to Phoebe’s murder. She reminded the jury that her client was convinced the Bible was making noises at him and that Phoebe was possessed.
The prosecution got the last word with the jury when the state finished its closing argument Monday afternoon.
The final witnesses were heard Friday when the defense rested its case. Jonchuck's lawyers have argued he could not have faked mental illness over the past four years.
Last week saw testimony from Dr. Emily Lazarou, who told jurors Jonchuck was sane when he killed Phoebe. She also said he is still sane now after being treated at a state hospital for the past four years.
To rebut that testimony, the defense called Heather Davis with the North Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center. Davis recalled how it took a year to get Jonchuck competent enough to stand trial and another seven months of medication after a relapse.
Jonchuck’s lawyers also called Dr. Michael Maher, a psychiatrist who challenged Lazarou’s testimony suggesting Jonchuck’s medication dosage was too low to treat anyone genuinely suffering from psychosis.
Asked whether Jonchuck could be -- as Lazarou had suggested -- malingering, or faking mental illness, Maher said such deception can exist. But in this specific case, over a period of four years, Maher’s answer was blunt.
“In my experience, that would’ve absolutely unheard of,” he said.
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