TAMPA — A judge threatened to have Julie Schenecker restrained Friday after she had an outburst during testimony from her psychiatrist.
The disruption in the double murder trial came as testimony about Schenecker’s mental health fell into sharp focus. Shenecker’s lawyers are arguing that the defendant was insane, that she didn’t know what she was doing on Jan. 27, 2011, when she fatally shot her children, Calyx, 16, and Beau, 13, telling investigators later that the children were mean and mouthy.
Psychiatrist Demian Obregon was called by the defense to talk about his treatment of Schenecker, whom he started treating in July 2010 and diagnosed with several disorders, including bipolar disorder, pathological gambling and substance abuse. The psychiatrist testified about numerous medications he prescribed and adjustments he made in the months leading up to the killings.
Under questioning from Assistant State Attorney Jay Pruner, Obregon testified he repeatedly warned Schenecker not to mix alcohol with the drugs and that by doing that, she was making the choice to harm herself.
This upset Schenecker, who yelled out in court, “Doc, you told me I could have two drinks and 2 oxies a day!”
Circuit Judge Emmet Lamar Battles then ordered the jury removed from the courtroom and warned Schenecker that if she had another outburst, she would be restrained. He then directed her lawyers to talk to her, which they did before the trial resumed.
The defense sought to portray the psychiatrist as failing to recognize signs that Schenecker was deteriorating mentally, and failing to take appropriate steps.
Although Obregon said Schenecker’s depression was worsening, he described it as mild to moderate. He said she had “vague” expressions of wanting to commit suicide, but didn’t relate “plans or intent.” He said she didn’t meet the criteria to be hospitalized under the state’s Baker Act, and she declined to voluntarily go to the hospital.
Schenecker’s husband, Parker, emailed the doctor, saying he wasn’t getting the full story from his wife, and relaying details of his wife’s behavior, her failure to take some medications, staying in bed and fighting with Calyx.
Obregon responded to the email by saying he couldn’t legally share information about his patient. The doctor said he asked Schenecker to sign a waiver to allow him to talk to her husband, but she refused.
Defense lawyer Jennifer Spradley asked Obregon whether he was concerned that he might have legal liability for what his patient did.
“We think about it,” the psychiatrist replied. “Of course.”
Testimony is set to resume Monday.