Brief as the hearing was–it lasted all of 12 minutes–by the ninth minute, Richard Dunn had become frustrated enough bluntly to ask Circuit Judge Terence Perkins this morning: “Sir, why, why is everyone under the inclination that as soon as I’m cut free, I’m going to jump off a bridge and kill somebody? I’d like to know why that seems to be the ideology here.”
It’s only 15 years ago that Dunn, who was 45 at the time, repeatedly stabbed his 89-year-old father Jack Dunn with a knife and forks, some of the stabs in his private parts, left him to bleed to death and covered him in a bizarre assortment of foods and vitamins. The killing of Palm Coast’s very first physician traumatized Dunn’s family and shook up the city. Four months later Richard Dunn was found incompetent to stand trial because of his lacking mental health. He’d been diagnosed with paranoid-type schizophrenia. He entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. Then-Circuit Judge Kim Hammond acquitted him in a non-jury trial in 2008 for that reason.
He was institutionalized in a state psychiatric hospital for seven years, then allowed to live in a half-way house for the next seven years–Free Spirit Transitional Housing in Daytona Beach, where he still works–before being allowed to live on his own in the past year and a half. He was still under court supervision and restrictive controls, including weekly counseling sessions and a monthly shot of Haldol, the anti-psychotic drug. But he’s been trying to be rid of the fetters for years. In 2013 he sought permission to buy a house in Flagler County. The court denied him permission–and denied him so much as travel to the county.
Last December, however, Circuit Judge Terence Perkins loosened some of the reins, reducing his counseling requirements to once a week and in a written order, leaving to his nurse practitioner in psychiatry, whom Dunn sees only quarterly now, as to whether to permit him to travel or not, though that became less clear today: Perkins spoke as if that decision still rests with the court. Either way, Dunn was back in court this morning, seeking to have his full freedom. Perkins denied the request.
But he is willing to possibly loosened some more reins: Dunn will still have to get his monthly shot, but the dosage has been reduced (it was causing unwanted side effects). And pending a report from his counselor, he may be able to reduce his counselor visits to only twice a month. But that’s not a done deal yet.
Dunn had previously been represented by Daytona Beach attorney Michael Lambert. Today he represented himself, appearing in court by zoom, alongside Melissa Eugley, the forensic director at Stewart-Marchman-Act Behavioral Healthcare, or SMA. He mixed frustration with confusion. “I mean, on the one hand you’re telling me I’m not the same man, and on the other hand you’re telling me I still needed to be under a restrictive ban or conditions. It doesn’t add up,” he told Perkins.
“I’m not saying that if we reduce that restriction that you’re immediately stopped taking your medication, you’ll immediately stop receiving the treatment that you need all of those things,” the judge told him. “What I am saying is you’re doing so well on that process now, why take the chance that any of that’s going to happen?”
“I don’t see it as taking a chance but evidently you do,” Dunn told the judge bluntly.
“I do,” Perkins said. When Eugley suggested the twice-a-month counseling visits instead of every week, Perkins said he’d be willing to consider it. “But I would want some information from the case managers saying, ‘In my opinion I can do the same thing every other week that I would be doing now, without sacrificing either Mr. Dunn’s progress or the safety of the community,’ and frankly that’s the two things we’re balancing, it really comes down to that. It’s that simple.”
If the community includes other members of Dunn’s family, the court’s decision is leaving them unnerved.
No one other than Dunn, Eugley, the judge and Assistant State Attorney Jason Lewis were part of the hearing. But Robert Dunn, the son of Jack Dunn, who had been made aware of the hearing, wrote FlaglerLive today: “We are concerned about the outcome. Hard to believe a nurse practitioner would hold such an important position in assessing the mental status of a murderer when the previous 6 psychiatrists (medical doctors with 5 years of medical specialty training) have all acknowledged his need for continuous care. If there is no oversight of Richard’s behavior going forward, including requirements for his drug therapy, disaster will again occur. That is not a prediction, but a fact based on the multiple episodes that had occurred prior to the culmination of his delusions with the murder of my father. Richard, it seems, has successfully bamboozled the NP [the nurse practitioner] into believing he is ‘OK’, possibly to the detriment my immediate and extended family. We will now lock our doors, look over our shoulders, and be forevermore be vigilant for Richard on the loose.”
Dunn was intent on getting his travel restrictions lifted. They were not. Previously, he’s petitioned the court for travel to Miami, Tampa and Israel, and was granted permission every time. He wants to travel freely, without asking permission–“without having to go through the rigmarole,” as he put it to the judge this morning.
Perkins explained his refusal cleverly, with a travel metaphor. “Think of it this way,” Perkins told him. “This is a journey where you’re going from where you were in 2006, to where you are now, and continuing on what you’re doing is you’re showing that you’re improving as you go on. And I think that’s all good. And if you think I’m not noticing, I assure you, I’m noticing. I’m reviewing the reports as they come in, you are making great strides and great progress. No doubt about it. That doesn’t mean we’ve reached the destination. There’s still lots of things to do. This is a process, and we’re working our way towards fulfilling where all the goals that we’re setting out. So I absolutely understand you’re making progress, I commend you for that, but I’m not prepared to just throw everything out the window.”
Earlier in the hearing, Dunn took issue with how Lewis summarized the situation. “I’ve spoke to the next of kin in the case,” Lewis said. “Their preference and the state’s preference is to continue the conditional release plan. I’m not sure why Mr. Dunn feels it’s necessary to get off the plan right now, judge, he’s only going to see a psychiatrist or psychologist every third month quarterly. He’s being required to take his medicine still, I do have a concern based on the crime itself about just basically allowing him to not be under the supervision of the court.” Lewis said the court ensures that if there’s any deviation from the plan, intervention can be immediate.
“But as soon as the conditional release is over,” Lewis said, “he has free rein to do whatever he wants and if he doesn’t take his shots anymore, he doesn’t visit the psychiatrist anymore, we don’t really have any vision over him at that point.” Dunn was heard trying to interrupt twice. “I don’t see why it would be an issue to continue the conditional release. It’s very minimal restrictions on him right now. And I think it would ensure based on the crime that occurred, and the fact that someone was, you know, murdered by him, that we hopefully will prevent that from happening again.”
Dunn jumped in: “Two-thirds of it was fallacy,” he said of Lewis’s assessment. He said the injections and counseling sessions would continue, not “float away.”
“I think I’ve proven that demand I was in 2006 is no longer the man I am now,” Dunn said. “All I’m asking for is a right to travel outside the state that’s my only initiative here.”