Convicted murderer John Lee attempts to withdraw his guilty plea
MOSCOW, ID —
A Moscow man serving three life terms in prison for three counts of first-degree murder, continues to maintain his innocence. John Lee has been appealing his plea for about more than a year now, arguing his untreated mental health conditions clouded his judgement.
John Lee continues his fight to withdraw his Alford plea. An Alford plea is a form of a guilty plea, meaning he maintains his innocence, and doesn’t admit to the crime. But he acknowledges there’s enough evidence against him for a conviction.
“He was experiencing or had perceptions of delusions that people were out to get him, that he would attribute malicious intent to behaviors of other individuals,” said psychologist Dr. Rahn Minagawa.
The defense’s lone witness, Doctor Rahn Minagawa, said to his knowledge, Lee’s mental state did corrupt his plea decision. Lee has been diagnosed by multiple psychologists as a paranoid schizophrenic, and he’s also on the Asperger’s autism spectrum. But the prosecution argues Dr. Minagawa’s claims are unsubstantiated.
"He did not conduct any independent testing,” said prosecutor Mia Vowels. “The method by which he followed was suspect. It is not consistent with the methods based on the research that other doctor said should be followed."
The prosecution called John Lee’s former attorney Charles Covis to the stand. Covis said Lee was manipulative throughout the time he was his counsel, and he actually tried to withdraw his plea well over a year ago.
"I told John, I said, what's a good legal reason, usually it's new evidence, that type of thing, something we couldn’t discover before,” he explained. “We discussed that a little bit and then it just kind of went away.”
Based on Covis’s testimony, Mia Vowels believes Lee’s history shows his latest effort to withdraw his plea, is also deceptive.
"He clearly understood. And he made a point to testify that he felt the defendant was manipulative, what does the judge want to hear, what does the state want to hear,” said Vowels.
The hearing took about six and a half hours and during this time, Lee didn’t move, and kept his eyes cast down.
Judge John Stegner didn’t issue a ruling Wednesday. He wants to review all of the day’s testimony. The court expects a decision in around a week.