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Jurors deliberate in Oldsmar double-murder trial

Prosecutors say Bishop was sane at the time of the shootings.
Prosecutors say Bishop was sane at the time of the shootings.
Published Aug. 22, 2015

Diagnosed with schizophrenia, Benjamin Bishop's mind is often clouded with delusions and hallucinations, according to his defense attorneys.

But prosecutors argued during his murder trial this week that Bishop knew what he was doing on Oct. 28, 2012, when he grabbed a 12-gauge shotgun and fired eight times at his mother, Imari Shibata, and her boyfriend, Kelley Allen, inside their Oldsmar home at 205 Cedar Key Court.

A 12-member jury began deliberations Friday to decide whether Bishop, 20, is guilty or not guilty of two counts of first-degree murder.

"This man pulled the trigger on that gun, over and over and over again," said assistant state attorney Kendall Davidson. "He knew the consequences."

During the five-day trial, Bishop's attorneys said he was not guilty by reason of insanity and detailed his extensive history of mental illness and hospital stays.

Shibata wanted her son to take his medicine. But Bishop thought the pills were killing him, a belief that led him to murder, his attorneys said.

"It is clear that he didn't know what he was doing was wrong because of where he was operating from," said public defender Christina Porrello.

The State Attorney and Public Defender offices each had two mental health experts testify during the trial. Only one, who was hired by the state, said Bishop did not have schizophrenia and instead diagnosed him with a personality disorder, referring to him as an "Asian Beavis and Butt-head."

The description was demeaning and showed the expert's bias, Porrello argued.

During closing arguments Friday, Davidson, the prosecutor, reminded jurors that they weren't deciding whether Bishop is mentally ill, but rather if he was sane when he fired the gun, adding that the experts hired by the defense did not question Bishop about the shooting.

Assistant state attorney Janet Hunter-Olney recounted the moments before the murders, based on what Bishop told detectives after his arrest.

On the night of Oct. 27, 2012, Shibata told her son he should take his medicine, get a job and pay rent. Bishop went to his room and emerged hours later, about 1:30 a.m., with a shotgun. He recruited a friend to buy the weapon for him because his criminal record prevented him from making gun purchases and he wanted one to protect himself.

He entered his mother's room and fired at Shibata, a nursing assistant, and then at Allen, a swim coach. When he ran out of cartridges, Bishop reloaded and fired again. Shibata and Allen, both 49, died at the scene. Bishop called 911.

"Was that premeditation? You bet it was," Hunter-Olney said. "We can all agree that there was a mental illness. But what I don't agree on is that it reaches the level of insanity because it doesn't."

Contact Laura C. Morel at Follow @lauracmorel.