Insanity ruled in acquittal for killing of mother, aunt
Father says he never knew son was schizophrenic and bipolar
Sam White wept yesterday in Circuit Court after his son was found not guilty by reason of insanity of charges he stabbed his mother and aunt and set them on fire.
Micah White was sent to the Hawaii State Hospital. "I think he's going to the right place," said Sam White, his voice breaking as he searched for words to describe his feelings. "I don't believe he should be in prison."
Circuit Court Judge Virginia Crandall acquitted Micah White, 22, yesterday on charges of first-degree murder, two counts of second-degree murder and first-degree criminal property damage. Had he been convicted as charged, White would have been facing life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
In several interviews with doctors after the April 5, 2004, incident, White revealed that he went after his mother and aunt with sharpened sticks because he believed they were vampires who were out to get him.
Notebooks recovered after the fire documented his preoccupation with vampires. His family was concerned about his preoccupation with them, and a week before the incident, his mother told his sister she believed he needed help, and was trying to find a psychiatrist.
Statements taken from family members and those at the scene suggested he might have been using drugs, and he admitted to drug use in the past. But results of drug tests showed none in his system at the time of the incident. The doctors who have examined him have since diagnosed White with various forms of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder for which he has never been treated.
Sam White said yesterday that he did not know at the time about his son's mental illness or see it coming.
"I really don't know much about it ... did not know this was there," he said.
When asked if he had any advice to share about his family's experience, White said simply, "Just love your family, that's all I can say."
Crandall ruled yesterday that the state had proved beyond a reasonable doubt that White had intentionally caused the deaths of his mother and aunt and caused extensive damage to the family's home.
But based on the conclusions reached by three court-appointed doctors and experts hired by the state and defense, Crandall also found that the defense had proved that at the time of the offenses, White was suffering from a mental illness that affected his ability to know right from wrong and appreciate the wrongfulness of his conduct -- the legal definition of insanity.
Because the panel also found that White is a danger to himself and to others, Crandall committed him to the Hawaii State Hospital for an indefinite period, until the court finds he is fit for release.
White's attorney said he is entitled to release at some point.
"I believe he should, because he's never been treated," said deputy public defender Susan Arnett. "The things he's been diagnosed now are treatable illnesses. And it's true that in our society we still don't know much about mental illness, and there's still so much stigma attached to it, but with proper treatment and medication, I certainly hope the day comes when he's able to leave the facility."
Deputy Prosecutor Franklin Pacarro Jr. said they will vehemently oppose any such requests and that he should remain in the hospital for the rest of his life.
"What he did was atrocious -- he killed his mother, he killed his aunt -- it's just a horrific act he committed," Pacarro said.
Kerry Anne White suffered burns to over 80 percent of her body and was stabbed nine times in the neck and chest, twice in the scalp. She also suffered two fractured ribs and a broken upper left arm. She died April 29, 2004.
Her sister-in-law, Sharon White, suffered burns over half her body and had also been stabbed three times in the chest and six times in her hands and arms, Pacarro said. She died April 14, 2004.
The state had a strong case against White, including the declarations of the two women that he was responsible, he said. The only question that remained for the judge or jury was White's state of mind at the time of the offense.
While the outcome is "troubling," "this is how the system works," Pacarro said. "I hope for everyone's sake -- the whole community -- I hope the doctors are right."
Everyone who knew White could not believe he did what he did or was capable of it, "and that's the tragedy of this type of mental illness and to the degree that he had a psychotic break that played out this way," Arnett said afterward.
That White's family continues to support him means a lot to him, she said. "They are a remarkable group of people, and the fact that they stood by him from the beginning while dealing with incalculable grief is pretty amazing."
By law, White can seek release once every year, starting 90 days from the date of commitment.