SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — A man who was found not guilty by reason of insanity in the killing of an unarmed security guard in Illinois was granted release from a secured state psychiatric hospital to a Chicago outpatient treatment center, a judge ruled after health professionals testified the man is mentally stable.
Derek Potts, 39, fatally shot state Capitol building security officer William “Bill” Wozniak in 2004 and was found not guilty two years later. Potts was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and bipolar disorder.
Associate Judge Jack Davis II decided at a hearing on Tuesday that state law prohibits courts from punishing people in Potts’ position. The judge said the state is required to collaborate with mental health professionals to help Pott become a productive member of society, the State Journal-Register reported.
Davis granted Potts’ request for conditional release from medium-security Elgin Mental Health Center to Bryn Mawr Care, a halfway house in Chicago that is regulated by the state as an intermediate-care nursing home.
At the time of the shooting, Potts’ attorney said then 24-year-old Potts had stopped taking his medications and heard voices that told him to shoot 51-year-old Wozniak, a husband and father of two. Authorities said Potts used a shotgun he stole from a military surplus store in Springfield.
Dr. Hasina Javed, a staff psychiatrist at Elgin, testified that Potts has been regularly taking medication for psychosis and mood stabilization and has been stable for more than 12 years.
“He has developed very appropriate coping skills,” Javed said. “He handles himself very appropriately. He has developed very good insight. He’s aware of what his ‘triggers’ are.”
Javed explained Potts’ triggers include hearing voices, feeling anxious or depressed, and having violent outbursts or problems sleeping.
State’s Attorney Dan Wright disagreed with Davis’ decision, saying that he’s concerned about the risk Potts poses to public safety after his conditional release. Wright pointed to psychiatrists’ testimony that said Potts could develop symptoms and potentially become violent if he doesn’t take his medication for as little as two weeks.
But psychiatrist Dr. Lawrence Jeckel, who was hired by prosecutors to examine Potts, said Potts has “grown as a human being” while receiving mental health treatment since the shooting.
“This is someone who has had to sit with what he did,” Jeckel said.