Thursday, February 13, 2003

Woman judged to be insane
in stabbing death of husband

By Debra Barayuga

In a 10-minute murder trial, a Circuit Court judge found a 70-year-old Waianae woman with a long history of mental illness not guilty by reason of insanity for fatally stabbing her husband nearly two years ago.

Circuit Judge Reynaldo Graulty also found yesterday that Catherine Nakamura posed a danger to herself and others, and committed her to the custody of the state Department of Health. She will likely return to the Hawaii State Hospital, where she has been for most of the past 1 1/2 years since her arrest.

Nakamura was facing trial on a charge of second-degree murder for killing her husband, George Nakamura, 68, on Feb. 7, 2001, at their Waianae home. She has been in and out of treatment facilities, sometimes involuntarily, after being diagnosed with a bipolar disorder and has a history of assault.

After finding Catherine Nakamura mentally fit to go to trial and accepting her waiver of a jury trial, Graulty accepted the state's evidence yesterday -- the written reports by police, the medical examiner and her treating doctors, including three appointed by the courts. The defense did not dispute that Nakamura had stabbed her husband and agreed with the reports by the doctors, who concluded that although she was fit to go to trial, she was insane at the time she attacked her husband.

Because Graulty had reviewed the written reports earlier, he took less than 10 minutes to find that the state had proved Nakamura killed her husband. He also ruled the defense had shown that Nakamura did indeed suffer from a mental illness that made her unable to understand the wrongfulness of her actions and was unable to act according the law, the definition of insanity.

The defense had contended since her arrest that Nakamura belonged in a mental hospital, not prison.

"The criminal justice system recognizes that certain individuals belong in a mental insti- tution and not a penal institution," deputy public defender Todd Eddins said yesterday. "Catherine Nakamura is one such person."

Nakamura told doctors who examined her that she stabbed her husband because she was overcome by sudden hate and was hearing voices that her husband was cheating on her, Eddins said. She was also convinced that her husband, her sole caregiver, was monitoring her activities through an electrical device in the closet, he said.

"This woman is profoundly mentally ill," said Deputy Prosecutor Glenn Kim.

Her husband was doing his best to take care of her and knew he was taking a risk by doing so, Kim said.

But it was not as if Nakamura was "raging out of control" and she had never taken a knife to anyone before, Eddins said. Nakamura is apparently is fine when taking her medication, but was off her medication when she attacked her husband.

Police got the call from Nakamura on Feb. 7, 2001, saying she had just "knifed" her husband.

When officers arrived, she pointed out her husband lying face down in a pool of blood in a bedroom. She also pointed out to police on a kitchen counter the knife she used, saying she had already cleaned off the blood.

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