By Shayna Jacobs
MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — A mistrial was declared Monday in the trial of a mentally ill man charged with murdering an Upper East Side psychiatrist because of delays caused by a debate over his mental fitness.
A judge called the mistrial after two doctors, who administered psychiatric exams to David Tarloff Monday morning, determined he was unfit to stand trial.
The findings brought to a halt trial proceedings that began last week with jury selection. In light of the events, 13 selected jurors and dozens of prospective jurors were dismissed from duty.
"Despite everyone's hopes and best efforts we are simply not in a position to present the 12 sworn jurors and the one alternate with the opportunity to decide the case," Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Edward McLaughlin said. "I have to declare a mistrial."
The judge ordered the new exam for Tarloff, 42, on Friday, after the defendant refused to leave his courthouse jail cell and was observed exhibiting strange behavior.
Tarloff, a longtime psychiatric patient, was charged with the 2008 stabbing murder of Kathryn Faughey, who shared an office with a psychiatrist who had previously treated Tarloff. He also attacked the other psychiatrist, Kent Shinbach, with a meat cleaver. Tarloff admitted to the crime, saying he was carrying out God's wishes.
Last week, Tarloff, who had been deemed unfit for trial in the past, was seen blowing kisses in the air, muttering to himself and contorting his face during jury selection last week.
He also refused to eat his sandwich and milk for lunch on Friday, Tarloff's attorney Bryan Konoski said.
And after returning to jail from court Friday, Tarloff stripped naked and ran around the jail ward — another sign of his obvious psychosis, Konoski said.
Tarloff appeared stable enough after treatment at Bellevue Hospital for the trial to proceed on Oct. 12.
But after nearly a week of jury selection, Tarloff's strange behavior became cause for another fitness test, Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Edward McLaughlin said.
Koniski and Frederick Sosinsky, another lawyer for Tarloff, planned to argue an insanity defense before the the mistrial was declared Monday.
"That doesn't mean that there won't be a trial at some point," Judge McLaughlin said.
On Tuesday, prosecutors will have another doctor test Tarloff for fitness. If that doctor comes up with different results, a hearing process will begin to determine if Tarloff will be fit for trial anytime in the near future.
If not, he'll likely be headed back to the Kirby Forensic Psychiatric Center on Ward's Island, where he spent about one year last time he was deemed unfit.
The case will remain open until there's a resolution. If Tarloff is committed to a mental institution, he will be retested for fitness periodically.
Monday's events were upsetting for Faughey's family members, about ten of whom were in court hoping the trial would proceed.
"The last thing we expected was to have a mistrial called," said Faughey's brother, Owen. "It's a very big disappointment."