Olmsted County defendant to argue he was mentally ill during crime

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(ABC 6 News) – An Olmsted County man accused of shooting and killing a man back in May will try and argue his mental illness played a role in the crime, according to court documents.

32-year-old William Shillingford is charged with two counts of second-degree murder, and one count of second-degree assault.

The criminal complaint says that Shillingford shot at the victim, 70-year-old John Colbert, outside his home three times on May 8.

Police say Shillingford and Colbert were acquaintances but did not release any information about a motive or Shillingford’s state of mind.

Shillingford’s attorney just notified the state that they plan to argue what is called a mental illness or cognitive impairment defense. This means the defense is alleging that Shillingford’s mental illness was severe enough at the time of the crime, that he did not understand the nature of his actions, or that they were wrong.

Some attorneys say this can be difficult to prove.

James McGeeney is a criminal defense attorney in Rochester not working on this case. He says if Shillingford’s psychological evaluation shows he was mentally ill, there is a chance the case will be settled without a jury trial.

“In my experience, the case doesn’t go to trial once you have that opinion. The prosecutors will acknowledge that the offender is mentally ill,” McGeeney said.

McGeeney says a defendant’s behavior can help determine whether or not they were mentally ill, along with a defendant’s previous mental health and criminal history.