PORTLAND – A Superior Court judge will decide today whether a man who said he was intent on shooting a pedophile at a Portland church was too delusional to understand the wrongfulness of what he was doing.

Herbert Jones is charged with attempted murder, stalking and possession of a firearm on school property. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

But a psychologist with the State Forensic Service says that even with his mental illness, Jones understood that his behavior was criminal.

Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Robert Crowley said he will rule this afternoon on whether Jones should be found not criminally responsible because he failed to appreciate that his actions were wrong. Jones waived his right to a jury trial, presenting his case to a single judge instead.

If Crowley rules in his favor, Jones will be sent to a psychiatric institution for treatment. If the judge agrees with Assistant District Attorney Kate Tierney that Jones did knowingly break the law, he could be sent to prison for up to 40 years.

After a full day of testimony Tuesday, Tierney called her final witness Wednesday morning, Dr. Kerry Drach of the State Forensic Service. Drach disagreed with the conclusions of Dr. Charles Robinson, a forensic psychologist hired by the defense, who said Jones’ perception of reality was too warped to fully comprehend what he was doing.

“He had serious psychiatric symptoms, but he still knew what he was doing and he knew he shouldn’t do what he was doing,” Drach said.

He said tests administered to Jones suggested that he might be exaggerating his mental illness, although subsequent tests were unable to confirm that.

Jones also was aware that his symptoms were the product of mental illness, but he sometimes did not take his medication, Drach said.

Jones suffers from bipolar disorder, which used to be called manic depressive disorder, he said.

Crowley asked Drach whether simply planning an action meant a person substantially understood the wrongfulness of the action.

“Almost any homicide would involve planned conduct, even those that are the result of insanity under the law,” Crowley said.

He cited the case of Mark Bechard, who murdered two nuns in Waterville in 1996, as a case of planned actions by someone who was not criminally responsible because of mental illness.

Jones’ lawyer, Neale Duffett, challenged Drach’s diagnosis and the weight his conclusions should carry.

While Drach said Jones might have been exaggerating his symptoms, he also said the tests may reflect that Jones in fact has severe psychiatric symptoms. Duffett also said Drach based all of his conclusions on interviews the day of the incident and afterward, without examining Jones’ long mental health record.

Tierney closed by saying that just because Jones has a mental illness does not mean he cannot tell right from wrong.

Jones had made known his hatred of pedophiles, and he knew that the man he intended to shoot had been convicted of a sex crime involving a minor, she said.

Jones and a friend, Walter Begaye, talked about shooting the man throughout the night leading up to the incident on May 18, 2009, she said.

In the previous week, Jones had purchased three guns at L.L. Bean, including the high-powered rifle he was caught loading behind Portland High School, outside First Parish Church, Tierney said.

“He was 30 feet from the door” and had made it clear he was going in to shoot someone, she said.

Jones planned his crime ahead of time and felt relieved after being stopped, she said, indicating his awareness.

Jones also is guilty of stalking a woman he knew from the AA meetings, a 26-year-old whom he had become infatuated with, Tierney said. He continued to contact the woman after she told him not to and he would follow her when she met with her sponsor, according to testimony.

In addition to determining whether Jones is not criminally responsible, Justice Crowley also will rule on Duffett’s motion to dismiss the attempted murder charge. Duffett said the state had not proven the elements of the case, namely that Jones had taken substantial steps toward committing murder.


Staff Writer David Hench can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

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