Judge: Hospital personnel can testify in Howard murder trial

Attorneys plan insanity defense in Hoffman Estates murder trial

A Cook County judge ruled Monday that lawyers for D'Andre Howard may not introduce testimony from Department of Children and Family Services caseworkers about Howard's mental state when his murder trial begins later this month.

However, Judge Ellen Mandletort ruled hospital personnel from Alexian Brothers Medical Center and Cermak Health Services who conducted psychiatric exams of Howard shortly after his arrest may testify about his mental state.

Howard is accused in the April 2009 murder of three members of a Hoffman Estates family.

"A jury will have to decide whether he suffered from a mental disease" and as a result "was unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct," Mandletort said in announcing her ruling.

Howard's attorneys intend to pursue an insanity defense for their client, who was diagnosed as a child with post-traumatic stress disorder and has a history of mental illness and criminal arrests.

Defense attorneys say Howard, 25, was legally insane on April 17, 2009, when he stabbed to death 18-year-old Conant High School senior Laura Engelhardt; her father, 57-year-old Alan Engelhardt; and her maternal grandmother, Marlene Gacek, 73, in the family's home.

Wounded in the attack was Shelly Engelhardt, Laura's mother and Alan's wife.

By law, a person is legally insane if - at the time of the event - he suffered from a "mental disease or defect" that made him unable to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.

Because defense attorneys have no expert testimony to support their claim of insanity, they're seeking to introduce evidence through lay witnesses.

Mandletort found the DCFS caseworkers' observations about Howard were "in the nature of mitigation testimony" that could be introduced in a sentencing hearing but were not admissible at trial.

Prosecutors dispute the insanity argument.

They say the attack stemmed from an argument over accusations of infidelity that occurred hours earlier between Howard and then-girlfriend Amanda Engelhardt, the mother of Howard's child and daughter of Shelly and Alan Engelhardt.

Howard ordered Amanda out of their Hoffman Estates apartment, police said, and she returned to her family's home with their then-8-month old daughter. Howard later followed her to the family's home, where prosecutors say the argument escalated.

Also during Monday's hearing, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Deana Binstock acknowledged that Howard is on several psychotropic medications, but they do not affect his fitness to stand trial.

Jury selection begins May 27 in Rolling Meadows.

Judge limits mental health testimony in 2009 Hoffman Estates slayings

Judge considers testimony in Hoffman Estates murders

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