Michael Wilson’s defense attorney raised questions about her client’s competency to continue with trial this afternoon after Wilson told the judge he was “hearing voices” and the sounds of a chainsaw in his head. Wilson said he couldn’t tell the difference between reality and delusions, and that two weeks ago he’d been cut off from his psychotropic medication at the Flagler County jail. He is not sleeping well. He thinks everyone is out to get him, and the trial proceedings are rigged against him. He’s not sure how much of that is real and how much of it is his schizophrenia, he told the judge.
But Wilson’s most convincing evidence to disprove his claims was himself, according to Circuit Judge Terence Perkins: Wilson was too poised, too sharp, too keyed into every aspect of the trial to lend credence to his incompetence to continue.
“I find no evidence of any indication that Mr. Wilson lack full and complete capacity to continue these proceedings, so I stand by the previous rulings,” Perkins said at the end of the second full day of trial late this afternoon. “We’ll continue on.”
Wilson faces an attempted first-degree murder charge, among other charges. He is accused of rigging his own home’s entry door in Palm Coast’s W-Section with a contraption intended to electrocute his wife around Christmas 2017. The two had been having marital and financial issues. Wilson’s in-law had recently fired him. Wilson was hooked on methamphetamines, had paranoid delusions and was eventually diagnosed a schizophrenic, though the defense isn’t allowed to let the jury know any of that. Wilson claims the electrocution device was never intended for his wife, but rather to protect himself from intruders as he was rifling through the house for his belongings–even though he was due back at the house in a matter of days, with his wife.
Wilson and his attorney can’t touch on any matters relating to his mental health because the judge ruled those matters off limit in a pre-trial hearing. The state successfully sought to preempt an insanity defense, and the defense lost a motion arguing “diminished capacity.” That meant that anything that would open the door to issues of mental health would be barred. To Wilson, that was unfair. But it wasn’t clear how much even his claims of schizophrenia would have helped him, clashing as they might have with a remarkable run of lucid, deliberate if contradictory behavior that mirrored his behavior on the stand.
Assistant State Attorney Melissa Clark voiced to Wilson how perplexed she was by his testimony–why he would leave his wife in Tennessee, drive nine or 10 hours to Palm Coast a few days before Christmas just to gather a few belongings, then, hours later, drive back up to Tennessee to “celebrate” Christmas with his wife, knowing all along that he was due back in Palm Coast with his wife right after Christmas. She was perplexed as to why, if the electrocution device wasn’t intended for his wife, Wilson didn’t tell her of his trip to Palm Coast or tell her about the device. And she was perplexed by Wilson’s relationship with his in-law in Palm Coast, the one who’d recently fired him. Wilson said they weren’t talking, that the in-law had essentially ordered him out of Palm Coast (a claim the in-law denied on the stand). Yet here was Wilson saying he didn’t warn his wife about the device as she drove home, separately, after Christmas. But Wilson called his in-law, with whom he wasn’t talking, to go to the house and take care of the contraption (another claim the in-law denies).
The day before in testimony Wilson had conceded that he’d been “bullshitting” his wife about his trip to Palm Coast around Christmas, playing coy with her about whether he’d driven down or not, making her guess–for what reason, it wasn’t clear. His tenuous relationship with the truth became even more obvious as Clark cross-examined him today, and as she recalled the in-law to the stand to bounce off Wilson’s fresher claims.
But Wilson had explicitly told the judge that his grasp on reality wasn’t certain when the trial day started after lunch today. (There was no morning session because Perkins presided over drug court.) It just added to the fuzziness of his truth-telling, perhaps intentionally so. As he had the previous day, but in more pleading details, Wilson this afternoon told the judge (out of hearing of the jury) that he didn’t feel he was telling the truth because he couldn’t tell the jury the whole truth. He couldn’t speak of his schizophrenia, which he claims was central to the reason why, on that trip to Palm Coast, he “panicked,” thought people were coming after him, and so built a contraption to keep an intruder from walking in.
Yet he’d discovered a gun in the house, a gun he claims he’d never seen before, and took it. He never explained why he needed the contraption after taking possession of the gun, or why he didn’t disable the contraption before leaving the house, knowing either he or his wife were returning to it in days. He wanted to explain it all in terms of his delusions, but wasn’t allowed to.
“I feel like the state has taken every defense that I have and this is just very one-sided,” he told Perkins. “I feel like if I am being charged that I would be entitled to a fair trial, and from what I’ve witnessed so far I don’t feel like any of this is fair.” Perkins worried that Wilson wasn’t being truthful on the stand. That would have raised matters of perjury. “Everything that I’ve said is true on the stand and I plan on keeping it that way,” Wilson told the judge.
But Wilson also intimated that he wasn’t in full control of his capacities. He said since going off the psychotropic medication, he’s had insomnia. He’s been unpredictable. He was cautioning the judge that he didn’t know what could happen as he continued his testimony on the stand. He didn’t want to say something he didn’t intend and cause a mistrial, but he wasn’t sure he could be in full control. Not with what was going on in his head. “Think of a chainsaw inside your head,” Wilson told Perkins. “It’s similar in trying to focus and hear things and understand them, you might be able to silence your thoughts and the voices to hear whats being said but you can’t always logically process and make order of it, if that makes sense. It’s hard to explain, your honor, but it’s very loud inside my head.”
“But you’re not hearing voices,” the judge asked him.
“I do hear voices.” Nine times out of ten, Wilson said, he recognizes the voices aren’t real. “But inside my head, I’m really struggling.”
Regina Nunnally, his assistant public defender, didn’t want to proceed. If there’s an issue with his competency, she said, “I’m asking that we get that checked out.” But she had no jail records, nothing to document anything Wilson was saying. Not even a release to get the medical records.
Clark, for her part, objected to the lot of it, all but ridiculing Wilson’s claims and Nunnally’s argument. “He was completely coherent, he answered everyone’s questions,” Clark said of Wilson’s previous day’s testimony. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him.”
Wilson took the stand, testified, submitted to Clark’s cross-examination, and finally returned to his seat, without incident, a half-dozen sidebars between the attorney and the judge notwithstanding. But the maneuvering had delayed what was expected to be the last day of witness testimony. While both sides have rested, the prosecution elected to recall several witnesses, among them Wilson’s Palm Coast in-laws and law enforcement. That won’t be done until late morning Friday. Only then will the jury hear closing arguments, though a verdict is still expected Friday: juries impaneled all week look forward to their weekend, and to returning to normalcy.