Homeless woman found insane in LA pushing death

LOS ANGELES (AP) - A jury decided Thursday that a homeless Los Angeles woman was legally insane when she pushed an 84-year-old woman from a train platform to her death.

A jury delivered its verdict Thursday after having earlier found Jackkqueline Pogue guilty of second-degree murder.

Experts testified during the sanity phase of the trial that the defendant has been severely mentally ill for most of her life, had delusions and was hearing voices.

Pogue's lawyer said the 46-year-old woman was diagnosed as schizophrenic as a teenager and has been in and out of treatment since then. She was released from a hospital three days before the incident in a commuter rail station. Attorney Laurice Cheung said Pogue had not been taking her medication at the time and had been in custody for causing a disturbance at a social security office.

Superior Court Judge Ronald Coen set a hearing for July 8 to hear recommendations on a treatment location. Pogue will likely be committed to a mental treatment hospital to be held until her sanity is restored.

Deputy District Attorney Louis Avila had argued that Pogue was mentally ill but not insane when she pushed Betty Sugyama off a train platform onto the tracks of a commuter rail line. He argued that she understood the nature and consequences of her act which was unprovoked.

He said jurors told him they believed Pogue did not understand the nature and quality of her actions when she pushed the woman.

He said that if Pogue is eventually returned to sanity she could be released from custody. But the law requires a number of procedures before that can happen including a trial to determine that she is not a danger to others if released.

If not ruled to be sane, the second degree murder conviction means that she could remain in an institution for the rest of her life, the maximum term for the underlying crime.

Cheung said Pogue is likely to go to a state mental hospital and would not be a candidate for early release.

"With her degree of severe mental illness she needs to be medicated 24 hours a day," she said.

She said Pogue was relieved to hear the verdict.

"She never wanted to go to trial and we had been trying to resolve this from day one."

Avila confirmed that but said that prosecutors had to pursue their case to trial in the interest of public safety. It took two trials to resolve the case. The first jury deadlocked on her guilt, uncertain if Pogue acted deliberately and understood the consequences of her actions.

The judge had assured jurors that if they found Pogue insane she would be placed in a mental health facility and she could be kept there for the duration of her sentence on the murder conviction.

Witnesses said Sugiyama was walking with her elderly sister when Pogue lunged at her and pushed her off the commuter rail platform onto the tracks. She struck her head and never regained consciousness.

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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