ZACK (5:57 p.m.)
We’re done for the day. Back at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (5:49 p.m.)
One of the juror questions, the judge says, can’t be answered in court. Others can.
“How can five or six different experts come up with totally different diagnosis with the same evidence and testimonies? Is it because of newer information or training? Please explain.”
Lazarou says all the experts got slightly different evidence. And they all interviewed Jonchuck at different times, and for different lengths of time. “If they got different information, that could lead to different conclusions,” she says, They also all had different training, she explains.
Next question: “In your opinion, does the idea of saving the world show empathy?”
“If someone actually, genuinely thought they were saving the world by doing something, I’d say yes. But I don’t believe that was the case in this situation,” Lazarou says.
Is psychology an exact science? No, she says.
What’s the acceptable margin of error? Lazarou pauses. “That’s a really hard question to answer,” she says. She settles on: “To do the least amount of harm” for a treatment setting. But in a forensic evaluation: “Does the evidence support your findings?”
Is there a percentage, though, the juror asks, like in a lab test? “That’s a great question,” Lazarou says. “We have to look at the criteria and go based on that. … There’s not an exact number for that.”
Another question: “You mentioned that John was (on) very low doses of his medication ... what is the normal dosage for someone being first prescribed those meds?”
“It really depends,” Lazarou says, on someone’s physical size and the degree of symptoms. And the dosage can change to adjust for symptoms.
“Has he consistently been on the same dosage this entire time?”
No. “He was on that amount of medication for a year. That has not changed,” Lazarou says. “And he became symptom-free on those doses for an entire year” at the state mental hospital. Then, when he was transported to the jail several years ago, he missed two days of morning medication, and he became psychotic again. “That is not something that normally happens,” Lazarou says. “It just doesn’t make logical sense.” After that, she says, the state hospital upped his dosage.
Do any of Jonchuck’s prescribed medications have effects that resemble those of the illegal drugs Jonchuck was taking in the past?
“You guys are brilliant,” Lazarou says before answering. She says Seroquel does. Clonazepam is commonly abused, too.
Next question: “What is NGRI training?”
There isn’t specific training Lazarou knows of, she says. “Different people have different training.”
Jurors wrote more questions during that round of answers. The lawyers and judge conference again.
“Since testing for mental health issues is limited, how big of a role does differential diagnosis play in ...” (we couldn’t understand what the judge said as she finished the question).
“I’m not too clear about what the question is really asking,” Lazarou says. The judge hands it to her to read. “Differential diagnosis, that’s how we come up with a diagnosis,” the psychiatrist says. “Do they meet the criteria? Could this condition be caused by a medical condition? Could it be caused by drugs?” she says. “That’s sort of how we go about doing it. You have to go through the process of elimination to come up with a diagnosis.”
Another: Did Jonchuck know what day and time you were going to interview him?
“In my opinion, he knew when I was coming,” Lazarou says.
Jurors have more questions, so there’s another conference.
“Out of 100 different patients how many are misdiagnosed on average? Is there data?”
“It really depends upon where you’re looking,” Lazarou says. “For psychiatry specifically I would say there’s probably going to be a pretty big variance.”
No more questions but Manuele has follow-up.
“Of course,” says the deputy who sits by the door.
“I heard you,” Manuele says, turning to him and smiling.
The defense lawyer asks again about Lazarou ruling out bipolar disorder.
“You ruled out bipolar because Mr. Jonchuck was prescribed Adderall , right?” asks Manuele. “Your position is if someone is prescribed a stimulant, they’d automatically fly into a manic state?”
Yes, and Jonchuck was using amphetamines, Lazarou says.
“You’ve left out the part of Mr. Jonchuck also being prescribed a sedative at the same time, right?”
“Doesn’t matter,” Lazarou says. “He still would fly into a manic episode. … The sedative is not strong enough to counteract the stimulant.”
Over the course of her career, Lazarou says, she has found a few people not guilty by reason of insanity.
In her deposition, which Manuele references, Lazarou had said she could remember only three cases. However, in one of those cases, as it turns out, Lazarou actually ruled the defendant was sane, but under the influence of drugs.
“Dr. Lazarou, thank you for your testimony,” says the judge.
The jurors are still in the courtroom.
LANE AND JOSH (5:15 p.m.)
“It’s not that I said every person responds to psychosis the same,” says Lazarou. “I did not say that.”
Manuele asked her for any literature that supports her position on how psychosis affects people. But she says Lazarou never gave her any.
“You asked me in a very sarcastic tone,” says the psychiatrist.
The DSM is a clinical guideline, Lazarou says. “It doesn’t tell you directly that you have to do this or this. … The DSM doesn’t have any medical treatment guidelines.”
“If there were a diagnosis in the DSM-5 that you could actually diagnose, he would have it,” Lazarou says, gesturing at Jonchuck.
“As to the malingering, there were a number of tests to evaluate him for that, and you brought them with you when you went to evaluate him, correct?” asks Manuele. Yes. “But you didn’t administer a single one, did you?” No.
“You indicated that when he was a child, he was drug tested to see if he’d been given any drugs by his mother?” asks Manuele. Yes.
Next, Manuele runs through a whole list of things that other expert witnesses have said are signs of psychosis, yet Lazarou obviously does not -- since she does not believe he was psychotic.
“John believing that Phoebe was a demon, you do not see as a sign of psychosis, correct?” Manuele asks. “I do not see that as a delusion, no,” says the psychiatrist. “I believe he’s reporting that. I don’t believe that’s a sign of psychosis.”
Dilated pupils on Phoebe, not a sign of psychosis? No.
Thinking Jonchuck and Phoebe were possessed, not a sign of psychosis? No.
Believing Phoebe was possessed and that’s why he had to kill her? “I don’t believe he really thought that, no,” says the psychiatrist.
Hearing the Bible knock, not a sign of psychosis? “I don’t believe he heard that,” says Lazarou.
Believing his cousin was reading his mind, not a sign of psychosis? No. “I believe he reported that. I don’t believe that’s a sign of psychosis,” says Lazarou.
Manuele is done with her questioning.
The prosecution doesn’t have any further questions.
But the jurors do. They scribble on their yellow pads.
ZACK (5:09 p.m.)
Now might be a good time to pull back and note what Lazarou cannot testify about. She said in her report that Jonchuck is a psychopath and described him as a “cold-blooded psychopath,” according to court records. But Helinger is not allowing that kind of name-calling in court, and in fact she agreed with the defense’s push to keep the term “psychopath” out of this testimony entirely.
So the jury really is only hearing a slice of the psychiatrist’s thoughts.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (5 p.m.)
The judge looks tired.
Manuele asks about two of Jonchuck’s oldest friends, one from middle school who the psychiatrist says was usually “drugged out of her mind.” Those women were important to talk to, Lazarou says, because they’d known Jonchuck for so long.
“I don’t believe he has seizure disorders,” Lazarou says. “I reviewed records that said he’d had EEGs done that did not indicate that he had a seizure disorder.” (An EEG is a test that deals with electrical activity in the brain, according to the Mayo Clinic website.)
Manuele shows Lazarou a document that says an EEG found that Jonchuck reacted poorly to strobes. Lazarou wonders if that was a self-reported statement, as there are no EEG results attached.
Jonchuck had seen a neurologist, and was prescribed seizure medication, Manuele says. She’s trying to prove he did have seizures. But the psychiatrist has said he didn’t have seizures, unless, possibly, ones that were induced by drugs.
“You indicated that you thought John was malingering based on the fact that he’d tell you he couldn’t remember things, right?” asks Manuele.
Yes, Lazarou says.
“He remembered some of his mental health history right?” Yes.
“He didn’t remember who he was living with at certain times as a kid, right?” Yes.
“And he didn’t remember he had lived with his uncles at a certain time, right?” Correct.
“So fair to say, John had problems remembering fairly innocuous things as well?” asks the defense lawyer.
Lazarou pauses for a while. “I don’t know,” she says. “It depends on what you consider innocuous.”
“Have you previously testified that psychosis creates no problem in storing and recalling memories?” asks Manuele. Lazarou says she doesn’t remember what she was referring to if she said that. So the lawyer makes her look at her deposition again.
“Psychosis doesn’t affect your memory that way,” Lazarou says. “If you remember the event, you wouldn’t add new facts when relating that event to others.”
Manuele asks: So your position is that if somebody is telling the truth, their story is always going to be the same? Even if they have psychosis? Even if they have dementia?
Lazarou says dementia is a little different. But Manuele points out that conflicts with the psychiatrist’s sworn testimony from the deposition.
“I’m a little surprised I said that,” Lazarou says, because dementia is different.
“You disagree that John was experiencing psychosis at the jail?” Manuele asks Lazarou. She does.
“You disagree that he has a severe mental illness?” Yes.
“You disagree with the state hospital diagnosis that Mr. Jonchuck suffers from a severe mental illness?” Yes.
Manuele goes through the defense’s three previous expert witnesses, who all said Jonchuck has mental illness, making the psychiatrist say that she disagreed with each of their conclusions.
Lazarou sips from her paper cup of water. She rests her head on her hand.
And what about psychologist Peter Bursten, the other prosecution expert?
Yes, Lazarou says, she disagrees with part of his analysis, too.
“Are you saying every single person responds to psychosis in the same way?” asks Manuele.
The prosecution objects. Back to the bench.
This is the longest day the jury has had in a while.
JOSH, LANE AND ZACK (4:41 p.m.)
Manuele goes back at Lazarou, saying she’s not certified to do telemedicine. Not exactly, says the psychiatrist. She can’t get insurance repayments because she’s not certified by the board that companies typically recognize, she says. Manuele points out that Lazarou is not able to treat people in many hospitals now either.
We finally move on from the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology issue. Except, now we’re onto Lazarou’s certification with the American Association of Psychiatry and the Law.
“You have never taught for money, correct? You’ve never been a paid professor?” asks Manuele.
“Not exactly … I’m a free professor at the medical school,” Lazarou says. “I’ve trained residents in the residency program.”
“You are currently not signed up to do any lectures in psychiatry at USF?” Manuele asks. The doctor says she hasn’t done any in the last year, and is not scheduled to.
“You worked as an adjunct professor at USF?” asks Manuele. Yes. “And you indicated you didn’t want to be an adjunct professor because you didn’t like anyone telling you what to do?” Correct. “And you’ve never been paid to teach at USF?” No, all volunteer, says the psychiatrist. She can’t remember when the last time was that she taught there, or when she last gave a lecture.
Jonchuck is watching cross-examination from his seat at the end of the defense table. He looks at Manuele and sometimes straight ahead.
We’re still deep in the territory of Lazarou’s resume. But Manuele is clearly trying to find spots where Lazarou’s current testimony conflicts with previous sworn statements. Now they’re speaking about a paper she was involved with. Manuele asks if Lazarou had previously testified that she had not actually written any part of the article? No, Lazarou says. Manuele breaks to get a past deposition, which she shows to the prosecutors.
Manuele then hands the copy of the deposition to Lazarou. The record dates to January 2017.
“You’re talking about the sexual sadism article, I thought you were talking about the leech therapy article,” Lazarou says.
The psychiatrist says she’s written three articles, including one on crystal meth and another she mentioned yesterday, about a man who cut off his penis to sacrifice it to God. That case, she says, dealt with psychosis.
A juror swivels in her chair. So does Lazarou on the witness stand. Helinger looks down at the bench, then back up at Manuele.
“You testified on direct that Jonchuck had no emotion when you talked to him, correct?” the defense lawyer asks.
Lazarou says something that we can’t hear from the gallery, but it sounds like she’s agreeing that she did testify he had no emotion. Then Manuele begins to play another video of the psychiatrist’s interview with Jonchuck, where she asks how he’s feeling.
“Kind of sad,” Jonchuck says. We can’t see the screen but it sounds like he’s crying in the video. The jurors watch the TV closely.
What about this makes you feel sad? the psychiatrist asks.
“Because I was her father and she loved me so much and I always told her I’d never let anything happen to her,” Jonchuck says in the video, sniffling. “And I did.”
In the courtroom, public defender Jane McNeill turns to Jonchuck. He looks her way and mouths the word “yeah,” nodding his head. He doesn’t seem to be in much distress listening to the video.
In the video, Lazarou tells Jonchuck: “That’s how you should feel.”
He continues talking to her and still sounds like he’s crying. She again says his reaction is appropriate. “I just wish you had that reaction before this happened,” the psychiatrist says.
It sounds like he says, “so do I,” in the video, but it’s hard to understand him.
“My mom wanted to take her that night but she wanted to stay with me. I just wish that she would’ve,” Jonchuck says. “I would’ve been Baker Acted by then.”
JOSH, LANE AND ZACK (4 p.m.)
Manuele says when the psychiatrist ran a competency clinic, she identified that 33 to 40 percent of the people she evaluated for competency were malingering their symptoms.
“Of the patients that I saw, yes,” Lazarou says. “I had a whole team there of people who saw them every day,” she says. “I took all of their input into consideration.”
Lazarou also worked in a clinic for not guilty by reason of insanity. She provided the medication and psychotherapy for the patients, meeting with them remotely via a computer.
“And you did not receive any training as doing NGRI evaluations, right?” asks Manuele.
“You’ve never been employed in a capacity where you were doing NGRI evaluations, other than for yourself?” Manuele asks.
Yes, says Lazarou.
“Fair to say you have a strong position that you do not want to work for anyone else,” says Manuele.
Before the psychiatrist can answer, Bolan says, “That’s irrelevant.” And another bench conference.
Lazarou is smiling when Manuele comes back to the lectern.
“I like to be independent, but obviously I have worked for a lot of other people. But I prefer to work for myself,” says Lazarou. “I don’t like people to tell me how to do my job.”
She was chief psychologist at a jail, but only went there once a week. “So you never worked in a jail or prison or state hospital facility where you walked in the door every day, worked there every day?” Manuele asks.
“I did, for weeks at a time, while I was on vacation from my other job,” says Lazarou.
She’s not a member of the American Psychiatric Association and she doesn’t believe in some of their positions, she says. The APA publishes the DSM manual (we’ve heard the DSM-5 referenced repeatedly, it’s the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). She’s also not a member of the American Medical Association. She says she’s certified by one board, but Manuele points out that she’s not certified by another.
The defense has spent this whole afternoon trying to poke holes in the psychiatrist’s background and credentials. During the three hours since lunch, Manuele has barely even asked about Jonchuck. Most of the jurors have stopped taking notes. They’ve got to be wondering where this whole back and forth is going.
Now Manuele brings up a lawsuit the psychiatrist is involved in.
The prosecution objects.
Back at the lectern, Manuele says the lawsuit is against the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. Lazarou says she’s a named plaintiff.
She’s asking for damages to be awarded based on loss of employment for not having their certification, Manuele says.
Lazarou says it’s not exactly like that. “I don’t know that I’m asking for damages,” Lazarou says.
So the defense asks the psychiatrist to review some records. Again.
“What I was asking for was for them to accommodate pregnant and breastfeeding women,” she says. “They would not allow me to sit for the boards because they would not make an accommodation for me breastfeeding.”
We’re now very far afield from the death of Phoebe Jonchuck.
Manuele says the organization did offer Lazarou accommodations.
Lazarou tears up. She says the examiners told her they didn’t need to accommodate her.
The prosecution objects. The judge says: “Miss Manuele, you need to move on.”
We take a break. Lazarou is still crying on the stand and dabbing at her nose with a tissue after the jury leaves the courtroom.
She’s clearly upset by this questioning. It’s unclear how jurors will receive this exchange.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (3:42 p.m.)
Before the break, Lazarou said she was hired on this case March 30, 2017 -- more than two years after Phoebe died.
Now Manuele is going back over the psychiatrist’s background.
Lazarou says she continues to get training as part of her medical license. She treats about 100 patients, but none of them suffer from psychosis or schizophrenia. Now she also does telemedicine consulting remotely, reviews medical records for insurance claims and works with patients trying to restore competency.
We’re getting pretty deep into her resume. When Bolan objects, Manuele says she’s establishing facts about Lazarou’s experience in the field. But it’s all pretty far from the murder case at hand. Jurors are watching the testimony but don’t appear to be taking many notes until the defense attorney asks about the difference between a competency evaluation and an insanity evaluation.
Bolan objects to the relevance of the question, but Helinger overrules him.
In working on competency cases, Lazarou says, “I’m just asking can they work with their attorney, can they display appropriate courtroom behavior.”
She can’t name all six criteria for competency when Manuele asks.
“I don’t know them right off-hand,” Lazarou says. And she worked on competency in Texas; she doesn’t know if the criteria there are the same as Florida.
She says she didn’t have any specific training in restoring competency. Manuele is showing Lazarou a transcript of a deposition the psychiatrist gave in January 2017 for another case, in which she mentioned she did not think it was necessary for someone to have specific training for conducting competency evaluations.
It’s clear, again, how much the defense has prepared for this specific cross-examination. It’s more detailed and lengthy than any other they’ve given.
The defense lawyers earlier this week indicated they had 700 pages of previous testimony from Lazarou they had researched in preparation for the case. The prosecutors were frustrated they only got those records this week.
ZACK (3:05 p.m.)
Defense asks for afternoon recess. We’ll be back at 3:20 p.m.
JOSH AND LANE (3:01 p.m.)
The defense is asking about the mental health and substance abuse problems of Jonchuck’s mother, saying she’d been in psychiatric treatment since before Jonchuck was born. Dr. Gary Arthur saw her twice a year and prescribed medications for bipolar disorder, according to notes Lazarou reads on the stand.
Now they’re going over records of a time someone called the child abuse hotline on Jonchuck’s mother, saying she was using drugs while she was looking after Phoebe.
“The state of Florida has paid you more than $45,000 in this case,” Manuele says.
The psychiatrist says a lot of that hasn’t been billed yet, as the most recent hours were accrued during the trial, when she was paid to sit in on testimony.
“Since 2008, prosecutors in Florida have paid you close to $700,000, right?” asks the defense.
“I don’t know how much it is,” Lazarou says. “If you say that, I’m sure you got numbers from some place.”
We can confirm that. As of last fall, Lazarou has earned more than $723,000 for work in the Florida legal system, according to state records we gathered. About 90 percent of that, $655,000, was from prosecutors.
LANE, JOSH AND ZACK (2:49 p.m.)
Next, Manuele is going through all the depositions Lazarou reviewed. Jonchuck’s parents, the priests, police officers.
None of those depositions had been done before her first interview with Jonchuck, she says. So there was no way she could have reviewed them first.
Manuele tries to drive it home. Before she evaluated Jonchuck, Manuele asks, Lazarou did not make up her mind about Jonchuck? No, the psychiatrist says.
“I never would have spent all that time interviewing him if I thought I already knew the answer,” says the psychiatrist.
Yet, Manuele says, by November of that year, Lazarou told Michele Jonchuck that the psychiatrist believed Jonchuck killed Phoebe to get back at his mother.
Jonchuck is rocking in his seat at the defense table as Manuele questions Lazarou about the definitions for legal insanity in Florida. There are two prongs: a person needs to first be mentally ill and then also not know what they were doing, or that it was wrong, at the time of an offense. Read more about that here.
Now Manuele is moving through the number of hours Lazarou has billed. Yesterday, Lazarou said she has billed 300 hours at $150 an hour. That would be $45,000 for this case. As of her deposition in August 2018, Manuele says Lazarou billed 99 hours. That would mean she billed more than 200 hours in the last seven months.
“You’d made up your mind then that John did not qualify” for not guilty by reason of insanity, Manuele says. “Yet you continued to evaluate him.”
The psychiatrist says she just answered the question Jonchuck’s mother asked her.
“I wanted to tell her that it was not her fault,” Lazarou says.
JOSH (2:38 p.m.)
During the bench conference, we found the deposition of Heather Davis. In it, she says she heard Lazarou remark “that he didn’t have a mental illness, and that he was just personality disorder" before going into the interview.
LANE, JOSH AND ZACK (2:28 p.m.)
Manuele plays for the jury the introductory portion of Lazarou’s evaluation of Jonchuck. In the footage, the psychiatrist lays out the rules and expectations. He’s welcome not to answer questions, she tells him, but she could make a judgment about his declining to respond in her forensic report. She also says she’s a medical doctor, and that even though she’s not treating him, she sometimes can’t take herself out of that role. Additionally, she tells Jonchuck in the video, he can ask any questions of her that he wants.
Manuele says that when Jonchuck did ask questions, Lazarou characterized that in her testimony as Jonchuck “trying to take over the interview.” Prosecutors object.
Lazarou says she answered Jonchuck’s questions, even when they were really just “derogatory” about her interviewing, like, “Do you talk to all your patients like that?” And, “What’s the got to do with the price of tea in China?”
“John asks you what the relevance is of one question on Day 2,” Manuele says. Lazarou says she doesn’t remember any questions, but she hasn’t reviewed the transcript, and that interview took place in 2017.
“And the second interview did not go as smoothly as the first interview, correct?” asks the defense. Yes, says the psychiatrist. She interviewed him in October 2017 and in May 2018.
Lazarou is still frustrated by the questions. Her responses are increasingly curt. She’s raised her voice a few times. A couple of jurors are jotting notes.
Now Lazarou and Manuele go back-and-forth about whether November 2 counts as being “around Thanksgiving.”
“Thanksgiving is in November, yes,” says the psychiatrist. “I did a lot of interviews around that time.”
Lazarou told Jonchuck’s mom that he killed Phoebe to get back at her, Manuele says. The psychiatrist says yes, that was her opinion. “She asked me about it at the end, after we had talked for three hours over the course of two days, what did I think happened? ... She asked me and I told her,” Lazarou says. She said it’s not typical for someone she’s interviewing to ask that kind of question, but she figured Michele Jonchuck was going to hear her opinion anyway.
John Jonchuck got very angry about that, Manuele says. (Which is probably what derailed his second interview with the psychiatrist.)
“So before you ever went to see John in May 2018, you were comfortable enough with your opinion that you were telling his family,” Manuele says.
“No,” says the psychiatrist. “She asked me, so I told her.”
This conversation was in fact before her second interview of Jonchuck.
Manuele presses Lazarou that she had made up her mind even before she talked to Jonchuck. No, Lazarou says. But Manuele is walking through how Lazarou entered the mental health treatment center. She has suggested that someone there overheard Lazarou — Heather Davis, a counselor worked who with Jonchuck.
“I have no idea who Heather is,” Lazarou says.
“Did you make a statement to these gentlemen in the room that you knew, prior to getting started, that Mr. Jonchuck was not mentally ill”?” asks Manuele, referencing the prosecutors.
At that, the prosecution asks to approach the bench. The jurors stand up, stretching and sipping from water bottles.
Manuele asks: Did you make that statement?
No, Lazarou says.
JOSH, LANE AND ZACK (2:12 p.m.)
“He actually was mid-sentence saying if he didn’t get an exorcism he was going to be killed and then you paused,” Manuele says. “You took that as a good time to move on from the voices.”
“This is my interview,’ says the psychiatrist. “It was very slow. And it was a lot of, ‘I don’t know.’ So I’m moving on to something else I thought I’d maybe get more response from.”
Jurors will have to decide: Was she cutting him off? Or cutting her losses? And how much does that matter in determining whether he was insane -- three years earlier -- when he dropped his daughter off the bridge.
It’s likely the defense is thinking of its cross-examination as being in two parts: there is the portion today, with Lazarou on the stand. Additionally, if the defense is granted a surrebuttal, or a rebuttal to the rebuttal, they may call forensic psychiatrist Ryan Wagoner, who previously evaluated Lazarou’s interview methods. Wagoner’s testimony would serve to undercut Lazarou.
Wagoner found Lazarou was “biased and coercive,” and that Lazarou did most of the speaking.
“You go into the evaluation telling John that you’re trained to detect lying, right?” asks Manuele. “But you’re not trained to detect lying, are you?”
“I’m trained to detect malingering,” the psychiatrist says. To the layperson, she says, they’re basically the same thing: Lying, faking, malingering.
“Lying is one of the aspects of malingering. I’ve already said it’s not the same thing. It’s a multitude of factors,” Lazarou says. She’s clearly frustrated by Manuele’s questions, and is speaking more quickly in her responses.
Manuele takes out her DSM manual again, so Lazarou reaches for hers. The psychiatrist stops to pour herself a cup of water.
The defense starts to show another video clip.
LANE AND JOSH (2:05 p.m.)
In the video, Lazarou is asking about Jonchuck’s time at the jail, when a doctor visited him. Jonchuck says that never happened.
“Who did you think was coming by to talk to you?” asks the psychiatrist. “You actually saw people and now you’re telling me no one came to see you? Why was that?”
“I felt weird the whole time I was in there, like people were reading my mind and I was going to be hurt, or something of that nature,” Jonchuck says in the video. He says voices were telling him not to eat some meals. “And they were trying to not give me a tray, or give me a tray they’d done stuff to. They put human hairs in my food, and bodily functions … and I’d try to inspect the food before I ate it.”
“People do do stuff like that. It’s not untrue,” Lazarou says. “So that’s the time you wouldn’t eat the meals?”
Right, Jonchuck says.
“What other stuff was going on? Were you seeing or hearing any other things that made you think that wasn’t real?” Lazarou asks in the video.
“When I was getting my blood drawn, they were all talking about me,” Jonchuck says. “I could only hear bits of pieces of what they were saying, they were like screechers.”
“What’s a screecher?” asks the psychiatrist.
“I could only hear bits and pieces,” he says.
“When did that start happening?” asks Lazarou.
“That weekend, before everything happened,” Jonchuck says. “Just weird stuff, talking about my brain and everything was going to be used. It’s been a long time so it’s kind of hard to remember.”
“I think if I’d ever hear voices in my 43 years of living, I’d remember that, because it isn’t common,” Lazarou says.
“It was common,” Jonchuck says. He says he heard the voices less when he used drugs.
He says he started hearing things when his stepmom gave him the Swedish Bible. The book was making a “knocking noise.”
“Why did you think Phoebe was possessed? What was she doing?” asks the psychiatrist.
“She was lying there. Her eyes were dilated. She was possessed,” says Jonchuck. “The same thing with me.”
Jonchuck says he wanted to find the origin of the century-old Swedish Bible, and why it was knocking. Then why didn’t you go to the church then? asks the psychiatrist.
Jonchuck says his stepmom told him the Bible was passed down in her family and it was really old, 150 million years old. “I don’t think so,” Lazarou tells him.
“If I didn’t get the exorcism, I was going to be killed,” Jonchuck says.
“What about your mood?” asks the psychiatrist. “How are you feeling right now?”
At that point, Manuele turns off the video and goes back to questioning Lazarou and her interviewing methods.
JOSH, LANE AND ZACK (1:50 p.m.)
On Dec. 29, Jonchuck went to the hospital at 3 a.m. He never told the psychiatrist about that. And she didn’t know to ask him about it. “I received that information very recently,” Lazarou says. “He just popped into the ER for panic.”
Certainly if you want to fake crazy, you’d want people to know that you’d gone to the hospital for panic, Manuele says. She means: Why wouldn’t Jonchuck have told Lazarou about this if he was malingering (faking symptoms)?
The doctors told him he was having some kind of anxiety. His blood pressure was high. “He was having a panic attack,” Lazarou says.
Jonchuck’s father said ever since Jonchuck was a child, whenever he had issues they always happened in the middle of the night. “He thought it was for attention,” Lazarou says.
When Jonchuck was in the back of the police car after he dropped Phoebe off the bridge, he later told Lazarou, a female officer asked him about Michael -- yet the psychiatrist never followed up to ask about who Michael was, Manuele says.
“She’s trying to find out who that was, who he dropped off the bridge,” Manuele says of the officer. The officer denied in earlier testimony that she asked about Michael, and said it was Jonchuck talking about Michael.
When Manuele asks Lazarou about her interview style, Lazarou seems to get frustrated. She’s no longer answering to the jury, rather facing Manuele. And she raises her voice -- it’s the loudest we’ve heard an otherwise very composed Lazarou speak today.
After his arrest, Jonchuck insisted no jail staff was taking care of him, Manuele says. “I don’t remember that specifically,” says the psychiatrist. Yet jail records show someone was checking on him every half-hour or so.
Manuele seems to be trying to establish either that Jonchuck was out of touch with reality during these times. Lazarou’s diagnosis was that Jonchuck was faking it.
There’s a lot Lazarou is saying she doesn’t remember exactly, as Manuele dives deeper into specifics.
The defense plays another video of the interview for the jury. But this time the screen is turned away from us, so we can’t see.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (1:40 p.m.)
Manuele is back to the questions.
Jonchuck told Lazarou that he asked about an exorcism at St. Paul, the church he visited in Tampa. The priest denied that happened in his testimony earlier in the trial.
We’re basically ticking off inconsistencies in all the testimony line-by-line. Hard to know for sure what this does other than leave the jurors with more doubt. But remember, the burden of proof in this case is on the defense to show legal insanity by clear and convincing evidence. By casting doubt on the state’s witnesses, though, the public defenders are hoping jurors will put more stock in their experts’ testimony.
Just a few hours before the killing, his friend Noemi said Jonchuck was sending her strange texts with religious messages, Manuele says. But Jonchuck didn’t tell the psychiatrist about those, only that he was “hitting” on her in a romantic way.
Manuele stops to get another record to show Lazarou. The cross-examination has been halted multiple times as the public defender collects documents to refresh the psychiatrist’s memory of specific points in the timeline leading up to Phoebe’s death.
When she resumes questioning, Manuele clasps her hands behind her back and steps to the side of the lectern. Lazarou squints and watches the public defender in the center of the courtroom.
Manuele asks Lazarou why she didn’t follow up with Jonchuck when he said Noemi setting up “a prayer room.”
Lazarou says Jonchuck was muffled in his speaking and she doesn’t remember him mentioning “a prayer room.”
Jonchuck told the psychiatrist that he called his mom that last night, worrying about an ice age coming. But Jonchuck’s mom never mentioned an ice age, only that Jonchuck called her wanting to come over.
Manuele brings up an email Jonchuck sent to a friend on Jan. 5 at 12:41 a.m. By 3 a.m., he was at his mom’s house, screaming at her, waking Phoebe from her bed, and dragging her out of the house.
By 7 a.m., Jonchuck had sent texts to his uncle, Bryan Morris, about someone named Doug. Lazarou never figured out who Doug was.
Manuele takes noticeable pauses in between asking questions and sometimes references a binder full of notes.
Another pause. Lazarou replies it would refresh her memory to look at the text messages Jonchuck sent to his uncle.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (1:30 p.m.)
We’re back from lunch and Manuele is at the lectern with more questions for Lazarou.
The defense lawyer asks Lazarou about Jonchuck’s worries over Phoebe’s mom taking her. The psychiatrist says, “The bottom line was, she wanted Phoebe.”
The defense has wheeled up a television, so it appears like there will be more video footage this afternoon.
“Michelle had not filed any paperwork to come and take Phoebe from him?” Manuele says, after establishing once again that Jonchuck had filed an injunction against Kerr in the weeks before he killed his daughter.
She hadn’t yet, Lazarou says.
Jonchuck told the psychiatrist that Phoebe’s mom told him, “I never want to see your two faces again.” But Phoebe’s mom told the psychiatrist that never happened.
Manuele seems to be walking through the inconsistencies with what Jonchuck remembers compared to what other witnesses remember. This is clearly an effort to cast doubt on the reliability of Lazarou’s interview with Jonchuck.
“When you read from the police report, he just is insistent that you have it wrong, right?” Manuele asks.
The back and forth is similar to what the psychiatrist did with Jonchuck while she was interviewing him on the video.
Jonchuck is back sitting at the defense table, staring at the psychiatrist on the witness stand. His shoulders are rocking slightly, side to side.
Manuele asks: “John is the only person that has ever said this story about getting in a fight with his dad over the Bible and being afraid he was going to call police to Baker Act him” and cause a problem with Jonchuck’s probation?
Lazarou says she does not know.
Manuele shows Lazarou John Jonchuck Sr.’s deposition, which does not mention such a fight.
Manuele asks if it would refresh Lazarou’s memory if she reviewed Jonchuck’s stepmother’s statement to the police? Lazarou doesn’t immediately answer yes or no. She says she would like Manuele to ask a question.
“Dr. Lazarou, you need to answer that question,” Helinger says.
Lazarou asks Manuele to repeat her question, then replies yes.
Court records gave us a preview of this showdown between Lazarou and Manuele. In a deposition of the psychiatrist, she and the lawyer went at it a bit. A snippet of our Lazarou story from December 2018:
In the Jonchuck case, (Lazarou) argued with public defender Jessica Manuele during a deposition, saying the lawyer had been “intrusive” when she performed her evaluation.
“You were intrusive, you were rude and that’s how you are now and that’s how you were then,” Lazarou told Manuele. “You’re solidly rude.”
ZACK AND LANE (11:55 a.m.)
“There were a few things that he said that were obviously inconsistent with the facts of the case, correct?” Manuele asks.
Manuele says Jonchuck was insistent he paid Torres, the custody lawyer, that day. But Torres has no record of that, right?
Lazarou says she doesn’t remember. She looks to her notes.
Lazarou pulls out an invoice that shows $400. But it’s undated. Manuele says should we rely on Torres’ testimony, then, about the payment?
This leads to a short back and forth. “Do you think you know better than Ms. Torres whether she was paid or not?” Manuele asks.
She moves on.
Lazarou stands and adjusts herself in her seat. She tilts her head to listen as Manuele asks more questions.
Manuele hardly gets into her questions when the judge says she wants to break for lunch around noon. She tells Manuele to stop at whenever is a good point.
“Now’s fine,” Manuele says. And we’re in recess until 1 p.m.
ZACK AND LANE (11:51 a.m.)
He begins to describe to Lazarou how the police officers broke his driver’s side window and ripped him from his car. He says he doesn’t remember the police officers giving him commands.
“You knew what was happening? You knew you were being stopped and the police officers were there?”
This is less Jonchuck describing the arrest in his own words and more him answering yes or no to her questions. She corrects him again, telling him what the officers were doing. “I don’t remember that,” Jonchuck says.
“And then what happened next?” asks the psychiatrist.
“I got in the back of their car,” Jonchuck says. “They came and sat in the front seat and were asking me if there was anything they could do to save Michael. And I wasn’t understanding Michael.”
“I got taken to a warehouse like place, and they put me in a room,” he continues. “And I remember asking about wanting something to eat … “
Manuele stops the video there. The judge returns to her bench and turns on the lights.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (11:45 a.m.)
Jonchuck is looking down at the defense table, not watching the video. He bounces in his seat. Jurors are watching and sporadically jotting notes. In the video, he continues with the story.
“So we just drove and drove, at one point I hit 100 mph,” Jonchuck says. She asked about the flashing lights of the police car, he says. “So I got out of the car and the police officer was there holding the gun, I walked around to the side … “
The psychiatrist interrupts him, to ask how Phoebe knew about police lights. She’d seen Christmas lights, Jonchuck says.
In the courtroom, he is looking up at the video now, still bouncing in his seat at the defense table. He stops but keeps watching as the footage continues, with him describing the moments before he dropped his daughter off a bridge on the screen.
“Then the police officer got out his gun and I told him he had no free will. I walked around the backside of the PT Cruiser to where Phoebe was. I was hearing voices.” Were you scared? Asks the psychiatrist. Yes, Jonchuck says. So if you were scared, why didn’t you raise your arms? Asks the psychiatrist. “I thought everybody was coming to get us,” Jonchuck says. “I thought it was a conspiracy or something.”
One juror sips her water, another puts his fingers to his mouth and furrows his brow, then rubs his fingers together.
“So what happens next?” Lazarou asks. Before Jonchuck can respond, she asks what the police officer was saying to him?Jonchuck tells her he doesn’t remember.
“I was hearing voices, saying me and Phoebe were going to die, everybody was going to die,” Jonchuck says.
“Why do you care about that?” asks the psychiatrist.
“Because with that Bible that night I was telling everybody I was the creator,” he says.
Lazarou asks why that matters.
“I thought the voices were telling me something that was real.”
“If you were the creator, why would you care if everyone was going to hell?” asks Lazarou.
“Because I didn’t want anybody else to get hurt,” he says.
“How did you know that’s what that meant, that they were going to be hurt?’
“By going to hell, everybody was going to die,” Jonchuck says.
“What happened next?”
He mumbles in the video, “I dropped Phoebe.”
In the courtroom, Jonchuck’s expression stays even and he continues looking forward as he watches himself recall the moment he killed his daughter.
“What was your intention at the point?
“I don’t know ... I grabbed her out of the car and I held her over the side of the bridge and I dropped her.”
The jurors watch intently, leaning forward in their chairs.
In the video, Lazarou asks Jonchuck why he didn’t jump.
“You didn’t attempt to jump over or anything at that point?” asks Lazarou.
“What are the voices saying at this point?”
Jonchuck replies, “You’re going to hell.”
What are you doing at this point?
“Driving, like I was blacked out,” he says.
“What does that mean?”
“Everything just seems, like, blocked,” Jonchuck says. “i don’t know how to explain it.”
LANE AND ZACK (11:41 a.m.)
At about 7 p.m., Phoebe was still up, watching Nickelodeon. “And also I need to tell you thatI went to Noemi’s house. That was around 6:30 or 7 … Or wait, I don’t remember if that was the night of or the night before,” Jonchuck says in the video. “I had went to her house and I hit on her through text messages. Not hit on her like strike, but … She was going to have me pick her son up from daycare the next day.”
“When did you guys make that plan?” Lazarou asks in the video.
“Through text messages,” Jonchuck says. “She said I was freaking her out.”
So she wanted you to pick up her son from daycare but you were freaking her out? asks the psychiatrist. “I don’t understand. .. What were you doing that was freaking her out?”
“She just did it in spurts. I saw her son in there,” Jonchuck says. “She was in an upstairs apartment and I saw her son through the door.”
Phoebe was with him. He thought she could play with Noemi’s son, but Noemi wouldn’t open the door for Jonchuck, so he took Phoebe back to his dad’s house at 10 p.m.
Then what happened, Lazarou asks in the video.
“At this point I thought the world was going to end because it was so cold,” he recalls. He texted his mom that they were going through an ice age. Lazarou asks where his mom was, because the psychiatrist thought Michele Jonchuck was at the house with them that night.
“You’re getting confused with my stepmom,” he tells her.
“So then what happens next?”
“All the dogs in our neighborhood were howling and stuff,” Jonchuck says. “I got freaked out someone was going to get us. So I got us in the car, on the interstate, and got as far as I could get, south, because I was afraid we were going into an ice age.”
“So you thought in Miami there’d be a better situation?” asks the psychiatrist.
“A warmer climate,” Jonchuck says.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (11:30 a.m.)
“It sounds like one of the officers says he saw you, he spoke to you for about 20 minutes, and he spoke to the police,” Lazarou says.
“They did not speak to me for 20 minutes,” Jonchuck says. “The guy asked me a question or two and that was it.”
Lazarou is beginning to interject more as Jonchuck responds in the video. It almost sounds like they’re bantering. She’s often reading at length from a police report as he sits and listens. Then when he disputes what the report says, she corrects him.
“Are you sure that’s not Genevieve talking?” he asks the psychiatrist.
“I’m positive,” Lazarou says.
Jonchuck says the police report is wrong, and he denies saying some of what it describes.
“I just don’t know where she would have come up with that information,” says the psychiatrist.
After church, he went home with Phoebe and his stepmother. “She said, ‘I think this is getting out of hand a little bit,’” Jonchuck says.
“That night, getting closer to the accident, I’d weighed 220 pounds,” Jonchuck says. “And when I got on the scale I was only 165. I wanted to see how much I weighed. I felt thinner.” Lazarou asks Jonchuck about whether the looked to make sure the scale wasn’t off. He says he did.
In the courtroom, Jonchuck looks forward and fidgets in his seat. He looks past the judge, who is sitting below the bench on a swivel chair in her robe. Two jurors rub their eyes. Manuele, who is overseeing the cross-examination, is standing at the defense table over a laptop.
“I went in the room and I read part of the Holy Bible to Phoebe,” he says in the video. “I started reading from the front. … Then I started to salt the doorways and window sills of the house to protect it from evil spirits.” He says he learned that on a TV show about supernatural phenomenon. His dad and stepmom were there, and asked what he was doing.
ZACK AND LANE (11:17 a.m.)
“Do you have a religious background? Were you raised religious?” asks Lazarou. No, says Jonchuck. “Were you raised Catholic?” No.
The jurors are watching closely, and a deputy has turned on the lights above them. The defense, clearly, is hoping the jurors see this and question Lazarou’s evaluation and methods. But this is also the first time they’re hearing Jonchuck recount the incident in his own voice at any length. He has already told the judge he will not testify in this case.
“We went to two other churches to find out about the Bible,” Jonchuck says in the video.
“And you’re saying the reason you were trying to do that, it would somehow take away the possession?” asks Lazarou.”I don’t understand what the Bible had to do with it.”
“Because it’s so old,” Jonchuck says. “It was like the key to having been possessed, or not being possessed.”
He says his stepmom was Protestant, and that at the next two churches the pastors weren’t there.
“John, some people have said that you’d been trying to get baptized. Where did you try to get baptized at?” asks the psychiatrist.
“At the Catholic church, me and Phoebe,” Jonchuck says.
“You realize, maybe you do now, that there’s a process. You can’t just get dunked in water.” says the psychiatrist. “I’m Catholic …”
He gave Phoebe some crayons and a color sheet while he talked to the priest. “I was talking about exorcism and demons and stuff like that,” Jonchuck says.
The priest told Jonchuck, “It’s almost impossible for a five year old to be possessed because you have to let something in,” he says. “He was trying to calm me down … I didn’t believe him.”
“It didn’t feel like he told you anything sinister or anything like that,” Lazarou says. After Jonchuck begins to mumble a response in the video, she interrupts, then he speaks again.
When the deputies came to the church, “They asked for my name and said they were called out to make sure that everything was okay,” Jonchuck says. “I told them that I was trying to be the best father I could be.”
“I feel like they asked you like a lot of questions,” Lazarou says. This is a pattern in the video now — Jonchuck says something and she pushes back. This is part of what Wagoner questioned in Lazarou’s report — that in his estimation she wasn’t really looking for open-ended answers.
LANE AND ZACK (11:15 a.m.)
Just the fact that we’re watching this video is evidence of how much emphasis the defense is putting on Lazarou. If you’ve been following along the whole time, you know nothing like this has happened for any of the previous four experts. The public defenders tried to exclude Lazarou from the trial last fall, but Helinger ruled against them.
This viewing feels like a prelude to the bulk of Manuele’s cross. She hasn’t really started to question the psychiatrist.
“I was going to the church, and I asked (the lawyer) if I could leave Phoebe there,” Jonchuck says in the video. “She’s like, ‘Are you kidding? We’re working.’ I told her I’d be back the next day.”
He next went to a church because, “It was the Bible, and it was knocking,” Jonchuck says. He says his stepmom heard it too. And she went with him to the church that afternoon, just a few hours before he killed Phoebe.
Jonchuck says at the church, the priest gave him a different Bible. “I needed my study Bible. It was Swedish, and it was big,” Jonchuck tells the psychiatrist in the video. “That’s when I started ranting and raving that I was the pope, because of the Bible … I was hearing voices at that time. They were telling me that” I was the pope.
They were telling you what? That you were the pope? Yeah.
So no longer about the going to hell and all that. You were the pope, the farthest you could get from that,” says the psychiatrist. ‘So you’re in a good position, right? And before this, John, were you ever a religious guy?”
Manuele asks Lazarou about this instance of cutting Jonchuck off before he could elaborate. Lazarou says no, she’s giving pauses so he has plenty of time to elaborate if he wants.
“I don’t believe I was cutting him off,” she says.
“Ok,” the defense lawyer says. Back to the video.
JOSH (11:11 a.m.)
This is the first time we’re seeing or hearing Lazarou interview Jonchuck. Her interview notes, her report and this video were not previously available to the public. But we were able to glean information from Lazarou’s two depositions, and the deposition of another forensic psychiatrist, Ryan Wagoner, who was hired by the defense to evaluate Lazarou’s interview tactics.
Wagoner said Lazarou was “very biased and coercive" during her evaluation of Jonchuck.
He said more, too. Here’s a snippet from our Dec. 4, 2018 story on Lazarou:
Wagoner told the lawyers he was so bothered by Lazarou’s second interview that he counted the lines she spoke in the transcript compared to Jonchuck. He found that she had talked three quarters of the time.
“Anyone who speaks for 75 (percent) of the interview is typically not conducting an interview where they want information,” Wagoner told prosecutors.
The lawyers asked for the basis of his opinion.
“Common sense,” he replied.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (10:58 a.m.)
This is the first time the jurors are hearing this version of Jonchuck’s voice. It’s different than in the video of him at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, just after his arrest. His words sound slurred, his voice mushy. When he’s in court, it’s been to the judge only, without the jury present.
Three spectators are watching from the gallery today.
“I called the school and said she was sick,” Jonchuck says in the video. “I remember telling my stepmom that Phoebe was a demon … She was just like, lethargic.”
Kerr had “said over Christmas that she was going to take” Phoebe away. “She was mad.” Because she’d sent Jonchuck a photo of her breasts and he’d sent it to the guy she was dating. “They were fake and she was sending me an email that I should come back to her,” Jonchuck says in the video.
“How did you decide to bring Michelle back into the fold?” asks the psychiatrist.
“I wanted her to be a part of Phoebe’s life,” Jonchuck says. “Phoebe’s a little older now and she could understand that her mommy was very sick, so she had to live with me because I could take care of her.”
At Thanksgiving, at Denny’s, Jonchuck says there was a roach in his iced tea so his meal was comped.
“What?!” Lazarou exclaims in the video. “How did you get a roach in your tea?” She sounds sing-songy as she talks to him about this. “How is that even possible?” she says.
In court, the psychiatrist sits just below the TV, watching the footage of her.
Jonchuck watches from the defense table.
The jurors have all swiveled their seats to face the screen. They are taking notes as they follow along.
“What was the negative between you and Michelle? You start feeling a threat. What changed?” asks Lazarou.
“She was going to take her,” Jonchuck says. “She had a way to get to her. Her boyfriend, Guy Kisser … “
Lazarou laughs in the video, saying she never thought of Guy Kisser’s name like that until Jonchuck said it.
“I wanted the drama to stop, that’s why I was getting an attorney,” Jonchuck says.
LANE AND ZACK (10:45 a.m.)
We’re about to begin and then ... another bench conference. McNeill stays at the defense table with Jonchuck. He turns to whisper to her.
The judge steps down from her bench and stands beside the jury box to watch the video.
“I can’t hear it,” she says as the video begins to play. The audio is too soft, so the defense is going to try to find a way to boost it.
Manuele says this is a “lengthy” video, and there are other clips which are shorter.
The defense is now going to show the video on a courtroom screen, so we’ll all be able to see it. Jonchuck and the lawyers can see it now too. It starts a few hours in the interview, Manuele says.
In the video, Lazarou sits at a long wooden table at a conference room in the mental hospital. It’s Oct. 24, 2017 1:17 p.m. Jonchuck says, slowly, that he doesn’t remember the day before he killed Phoebe. “I remember sending crazy text messages to people,” he says.
“Why do you think you don’t remember that?” the psychiatrist says. Jonchuck says he didn’t get enough sleep, only four or five hours the last night.
Lazarou leans back in her chair in the video, and takes notes while Jonchuck talks.
He’s wearing a dark shirt, and his hair is long. His speaks slowly, in a hesitant mumble, much like he has in court.
Jonchuck says his lawyer told him not to take Phoebe to school because “her mom could pick her up.” He had a $100 bill for the retainer. “And the police officer who arrested me took it out of my pocket .. and stuck it right in his police shirt pocket.”
Jonchuck continues and says he doesn’t think someone has been interviewed.
“How do you know that? You know a lot of stuff,” the psychiatrist says in the video.
Back to Michelle Kerr, Phoebe’s mother, who Jonchuck says was “threatening to take her away.”
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (10:29 a.m.)
Defense attorney Jessica Manuele stands at the lectern beside the TV.
Lazarou pours herself a paper cup of water. She rests her head against her hand as Manuele questions her. She looks at the lawyer, not the jury, as she replies.
The psychiatrist interviewed Jonchuck twice, once in 2017, once in 2018. She says she hasn’t been given a copy of this video of her interviewing him in the mental treatment center.
“So you had gone through some statements that Mr. Jonchuck made about 24 hours before this happened,” Manuele says, turning on the TV. The footage was recorded in the afternoon.
A juror asks if the lawyers or judge can make the room darker. Helinger flips a switch on the bench. All but two lights go off.
We stop. Another bench conference. Helinger is talking a little louder than a whisper but it’s hard to make out what she’s saying.
ZACK, JOSH AND LANE ( 10:25 a.m.)
A note from yesterday. During Bolan’s questioning, Lazarou said she was being paid $150 an hour and had worked 300 hours on this case. That would add up to $45,000.
The court docket shows she has been paid about $28,500 so far.
Lazarou is not unique in this. All of the experts are likely making thousands of dollars — and perhaps tens of thousands — for the hours they have spent preparing and testifying. We don’t have a total number and can’t easily see all of the payments to the defense experts in the public court file. Those who testified during the days before Lazarou did not clearly cite the hours they’ve worked to date while on the stand.
Peter Bursten, the psychologist who also testified for the state, has been paid at least $12,000 to date, according to the docket.
These experts work in specialized fields that require a lot of practice. Their hourly rates reflect that.
LANE, JOSH AND ZACK (10:22 a.m.)
In the center of the courtroom, the defense team sets up a large TV and turns it to face the jury. We can’t see the screen, and it won’t be in our livestream. Jonchuck, the judge and lawyers can’t see it either. They all sit behind it.
“Okay, is everybody ready?” the judge asks at 10:13 a.m., just as the jury comes in.
“We got a few issues, Judge,” Bolan says. The judge sighs and hangs her head.
The judge sends Lazarou out. Bolan says the defense is going to ask the psychiatrist about what she was wearing when she interviewed Jonchuck in the mental health hospital. While she was there, a guard asked her cover up there.
“She was intentionally trying to distract her,” says public defender Jessica Manuele. “She said she had to cover up and leave. An attorney for the hospital walked by a screen, saw her in there, and told her to cover up.”
“It certainly goes to her professionalism,” Manuele says. “Her experience in a hospital setting.”
“A woman’s choice of attire, their hairstyle, all of that stuff,” the judge says. “I don’t think is really relevant to all of that stuff. … I’m not going to let her be attacked for her dress. I’m not going to allow that to happen.”
“She entered the hospital completely inappropriately dressed,” Manuele says. If she’s testifying she knows how those things are done, she should have known better, the defense says. The psychiatrist’s attire made Jonchuck uncomfortable, and might have affected his actions during the interview, the defense says.
The defense wants to play clips of Lazarou’s interview with Jonchuck. Bolan doesn’t see why that should be shown, and objects. The judge overrules.
“Okay, are we ready for the jury?” asks the judge.
JOSH (10:02 a.m.)
We finally received those Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office reports about Phoebe’s mother, Michelle Kerr, and her boyfriend, Guy Kisser, that came up Monday afternoon. The defense invoked them to dispute psychologist Peter Bursten’s testimony that Jonchuck may have feared losing Phoebe to Kerr’s and Kisser’s stable home.
The reports were redacted in compliance with Marcy’s Law, a newly implemented public records exemption that protects victim information. However we can reasonably assume the victim in these records is Kerr, as they are the same records introduced into the trial by defense attorneys, who said in court the records included Kerr.
The first record chronologically is dated May 15, 2014, more than seven months before Phoebe died. Kisser was arrested on a charge of misdemeanor domestic battery after, Kerr told deputies, Kisser threw her to the ground and sat on her during an argument. Kisser denied it and court records show he was not prosecuted.
The second incident happened Aug. 25, 2014. Kerr told a deputy that Kisser had pushed her. Kisser denied pushing her, saying she had a proclivity to fall and he tried to keep her up. He was taken into custody on a charge of misdemeanor domestic violence. Court records again indicate he was not prosecuted.
The last incident happened Jan. 3, 2015, just five days before Jonchuck killed Phoebe, according to the records. Kerr and Kisser got into an argument and Kerr began cutting one of Kisser’s shirts with a knife. Kerr ended up with a three-inch long and one-inch deep cut on her left thigh. In court on Monday, attorneys were discussing this incident as if there had been an arrest, however, the report is clear nobody was arrested because the deputy who investigated wrote Kerr likely gashed her leg when cutting the shirt. It’s worth noting the narrative of the report says the incident happened Dec. 3, 2014; though that is likely a typo, as the rest of the report indicates the incident happened a month later.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (9:56 a.m.)
“He appeared in the here and now,” Lazarou says, in the records she reviewed of Jonchuck at the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. She’s now repeated this phrase, “here and now,” several times. Bolan used it in his opening statement to emphasize that Jonchuck was not insane when he killed Phoebe. You can read more about the opening statements for the case here.
“He’s asking about food, asking for water. He’s there. This is not someone who doesn’t know who he is,” Lazarou says. He asked a deputy” “Do you not know how to use a computer?”
“He was talking about his job, saying he did a hell of a good job, bad-talking the boss,” Lazarou explains. “That has zero to do with a psychotic delusion.”
Kerr, Phoebe’s mom, told Lazarou she had never seen Jonchuck exhibiting psychotic tendencies.
Three days before Jonchuck killed his daughter, Lazarou says, he told his mom, “I”m taking my daughter and you’ll never see her again, you piece of s---. I’m going to do something to f---k up your whole life.”
Lazarou reads the message in court, emphasizing the curse words.
“That told me he wanted to hurt her,” the psychiatrist says.
On Jan. 5 -- two days before Phoebe died -- Jonchuck sent an email to a friend, apologizing for saying mean and angry things. He titled it, “Making amends.”
The psychiatrist reads the email: “I was an addict. All my harsh words were when I was under the influence. … I’m cancelling the lawsuits, working as a chef ...We can’t pick our families but we can choose our friends. You guys were ones that inspired me. Best regards.”
“Do you have an opinion as to whether or not the defendant was insane at the time of the murder?” asks the prosecutor.
The psychiatrist says, “Mr. Jonchuck did not meet the criteria for insanity at the time of the offense.”
With that last question, the prosecution has nothing left for Lazarou. The defense asks for a 15 minute break to get a television set up for its cross-examination. We may be about to see a video of Lazarou evaluating Jonchuck in the state hospital.
The jury will be back at 10:10 a.m.
LANE AND ZACK (9:44 a.m.)
Lazarou reviewed all the depositions in the case. One officer talked about Jonchuck fleeing the scene after he killed Phoebe.
“That showed goal-directed activity,” the psychiatrist says. “To me, this was evidence he was thinking quickly on his feet. He knew he was being pursued by police and he was trying to get away.” He “knows what he’s doing is wrong, and he knows the consequences of his actions,” she says.
Another bench conference. Another break. The jury hasn’t even been in the courtroom for a half-hour.
Helinger just takes a few seconds to go over an important detail with Lazarou. She cites case law that says it could be “reversible error,” which means grounds to overturn a conviction, if the jury hears about whether Jonchuck asked for a lawyer after his arrest. Lazarou says she understands. They call back the jury.
LANE, JOSH AND ZACK (9:40 a.m.)
Lazarou found no evidence of psychosis in the email Jonchuck sent to his lawyer on the day before Phoebe died. At 10:25 p.m. -- about 90 minutes before he dropped Phoebe off the bridge, he emailed Torres again: “I”ll be there in the morning to give you the $100.”
“He’s in the here and now,” Lazarou says, echoing language Bolan used in his opening statement. He emailed that he got paperwork from St. Paul’s Church and said he was a member.
“This again told me he’s in the here and now,” says the psychiatrist. “This is not a psychotic thing about the Pope or the devil. He said he’d be there in the morning to give her $100.”
The deputies who interviewed Jonchuck earlier that day also said he was not delusional, Lazarou says. They had been called out to consider taking Jonchuck into custody under the Baker Act, after Torres reported concerns about Jonchuck’s mental state. But the deputies determined Jonchuck was not a threat to himself or others that day.
“Somebody that’s in a delusion, when you speak to them about the delusion specifically… he didn’t all of a sudden fall into the delusion,” the psychiatrist says. “But if they’re asked about the delusion, they will go automatically into it. And you can’t talk them out of it.”
If Jonchuck had been psychotic, Lazarou tells the jury, he would have fallen straight into the delusion when the Hillsborough deputies questioned him. Instead, he had logical answers, she says.
“You don’t just get Baker Acted because you’re acting weird,” Lazarou says.
Jonchuck told her he didn’t remember talking to those officers.
“If they’re not fixed on it, that’s not a delusion,” Lazarou says. “It’s not like he was so set on the ideation.”
Jonchuck’s mom told Lazarou that she thought he was turning over a new leaf when he was talking about religion. “He was not a religious person at all before that. The father was wondering what was going on. He was a little bit frustrated about it. He was protective of his wife’s Bible, of that object, because John had a history of destroying objects.”
When the psychiatrist starts talking about Jonchuck’s friend, Noemi, not letting him in her house, the defense objects. Here goes the first bench conference of the day.
“It didn’t tell me he was psychotic,” Lazarou says. “It might have told me he needs a new place to stay.”
How does the jury parse this? They’re hearing an analysis that’s completely the opposite of the defense’s three experts — and even slightly different than the testimony of the psychologist who testified for the prosecution earlier this week. Same story, different read.
LANE, ZACK AND JOSH (9:30 a.m.)
He said he remembered sending out crazy text messages to people, then he said he didn’t sleep at all. He usually slept seven or eight hours, but this night he slept four to five hours. Once he got up from sleep, he got Phoebe ready.
“And I asked was he getting her ready for school? Why was he getting her ready?”
He said he was not taking her to school “because of possession, the Bible, and all of that.” Jonchuck also said he was not taking Phoebe to school because her mother could get her from there. He thought Phoebe’s mom was going to take her away, he talked about that several times, the psychiatrist says.
“So there was a reality base to all that,” Lazarou explains.
Jonchuck said he gave the attorney $400 of the $500 retainer, Lazarou says. He gave her the $400 and asked her to read the Bible. Lazarou says Jonchuck then asked the attorney to read his Swedish Bible. “She was foreign. She was blonde.’ …. I didn’t see that as atypical or abnormal,” Lazarou explains. Defense experts considered this part of Jonchuck’s delusions; Lazarou does not.
Lazarou recalls Jonchuck said Phoebe’s mother Michelle Kerr “wasn’t a threat,” in August when he first met the attorney, but by December she was. So he went back to talk to the lawyer about custody.
At one point, Kerr and Jonchuck talked about reconciling — that was what the Thanksgiving dinner was all about, Lazarou says. “Michelle, Phoebe’s mom, had gotten diagnosed with multiple-sclerosis soon after Phoebe was born, so she wasn’t able to drive. But Guy, her boyfriend, could drive, and that made her even more of a threat because that made her capable of movement that she really wasn’t capable of before,” the psychiatrist says.
Like much of Lazarou’s testimony, she’s providing analysis of the months leading up to Phoebe’s death that we have not heard before. The other experts, for both the prosecution and defense, agree that Jonchuck is mentally ill. Lazarou has said she doesn’t think so.
All of the jurors are taking notes on their yellow legal pads.
“I want to fast-forward to his account of what happened on the bridge,” Bolan says.
“So, on the bridge, he said he’d stop’ed and that Phoebe was awake and she saw the flashing lights on the police car and she said, “Daddy, there’s flashing lights,’” Lazarou says
Jonchuck sits at the defense table next to public defender, Jane McNeill, as the psychiatrist reads from her notes on the witness stand. His head is tilted to the left.
Jonchuck recalled telling the officer “You have no free will, I do.” We’ve heard this testimony before. Jonchuck told Lazarou he didn’t know where that line came from.
“He said it was a conspiracy or something,” Lazarou says. “If he and Phoebe didn’t die, everyone was going to go to hell. He didn’t want anyone else to get hurt.” He told the psychiatrist, “I held her over the side of the bridge and I dropped her. I got in the car and drove away.” He said he didn’t remember where he was going.
Lazarou said Jonchuck not jumping off the bridge himself shows he wasn’t psychotic at the time. Because the delusion he described was that both he and Phoebe needed to die, but he didn’t follow through. “I would say that was not based upon a delusion,” she says.
LANE (9:19 a.m.)
Prosecutor Paul Bolan is leading Lazarou through questioning again. The psychiatrist sits at an angle, shoulders pointed at the jury, as she explains her interviewing style.
“We try to get people to mirror what we’re doing. If I’m just saying one word, they’re just going to say one word. I hope if I’m more elaborate with my question they’ll get more elaborative with their answers.”
Lazarou then moves onto further description of malingering, which she introduced in her testimony yesterday. Her analysis is that Jonchuck has faked symptoms of mental illness.
“The easiest way to malinger is to say, ‘I don’t know.’ To not say anything. And that happens a lot, actually. You don’t have to make up anything. The more things you make up, the more things you have to remember that you made up. Especially among multiple interviewers,” Lazarou says.
“I always ask, ‘Can you talk to me about the events leading up to it (the killing) at least 24 hours in advance.”
She recalls Jonchuck said: “I don’t remember what led up to it.”
ZACK (9:15 a.m.)
As Lazarou begins a second day of testimony, we can provide an update on Jonchuck’s latest jail log. Last night, he received an X-ray at the clinic and was visited cellside by a doctor. There are no other details in the log about these notations.
Jonchuck also received his medication and opted not to change his linens.
LANE (9:07 a.m.)
Jonchuck walks in wearing a striped shirt, and greets the judge.
Psychiatrist Emily Lazarou wheels in her box of files and unpacks at the witness stand.
We await the jury.
Prosecutors will continue their questioning of psychiatrist Emily Lazarou today as they try to rebut the the defense’s case that John Jonchuck was insane when he killed his daughter four years ago.
At least that’s what we expect to happen. But recent days of trial have shown that the proceedings could be pulled off-track at any moment. The defense has frequently challenged parts of testimony from the prosecution’s experts, triggering lengthy arguments while the jury is out of the courtroom.
Lazarou on Wednesday did not take the stand until after lunch. Judge Chris Helinger then sent the jury home shortly after 3:30 p.m.
While on the stand, Lazarou had begun to lay out her assessment that Jonchuck was not insane when he killed Phoebe. Her opinion is that he was malingering, or faking, symptoms of mental illness.
Unlike other experts in the case, Lazarou doesn’t believe Jonchuck was mentally ill at all. She will likely continue to expound on that theory this morning, when the jury returns at 9 a.m.
Read our previous coverage of the case below: