A Thibodaux man accused of beheading his son in 2011 was declared not guilty by reason of insanity today.
Judge John LeBlanc of Thibodaux issued the ruling just before noon after a court hearing that lasted much of the morning.
Jeremiah Wright is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 7-year-old son, Jori Lirette. The boy's severed head was found Aug. 14, 2011, in the driveway of their home.
LeBlanc ordered that Wright be sent to a state mental hospital in Jackson.
Wright, 32, pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity but in November was found mentally fit to stand trial.
Wright's attorney, New Orleans-based Kerry Cuccia described the ruling as just.
“When you look at the evidence objectively, it was the only decision that could be made," he said after today's court hearing. “Justice was done today in a way that the system was designed for justice to be. Whether you call it best or worst case scenario, it is the result that the law ordains.To that extent, it's the best result for everyone because it's the just result."
Jesslyn Lirette, Jori's mother and Wright's ex-girlfriend, began crying as the verdict was being announced.
Meanwhile, Wright stared blankly ahead as he did for most of the hearing.
Expert witnesses Dr. Sarah DeLand, a director at the mental facility that treated Wright, and psychiatrist George Seiden of Shreveport, said Wright suffered from a psychotic disorder at the time of the incident and couldn't tell right from wrong.
Wright believed he was living as part of a seven-year behavioral experiment, DeLand testified.
Over the past two years, Wright's delusions expanded, which could make him more dangerous, Seiden said.
He added that Wright suffers from Capgras syndrome, a specific case of delusion in which a person believes certain people in his life are imposters. Sometimes, as in Wright's case, people with the mental illness lash out the imposters.
Lafourche Parish District Attorney Cam Morvant II argued that Wright was sane, but the prosecutor said he was prepared to accept the judge's ruling.
“We’ve dealt with this case now, personally, for two-and-half years. I’m going to reluctantly agree with Mr. Cuccia," he said. "It’s been a difficult decision for the state to make and have this hearing, but the medical evidence is what it is.”
Morvant said he and his assistants knew this was a potential outcome when they began working on the case two years ago.
"I've discussed with just about every assistant DA," he said, "and the consensus has been that he is mentally ill and we should not prosecute him and seek the death penalty.”
Morvant noted that Wright won't be held in a traditional hospital setting.
“He is confined in a prison setting for individuals who have committed crimes," he said.
LeBlanc and Morvant agreed that Wright should never be released from the hospital.
Cuccia disagreed, arguing that courts could move him to a family home environment if he shows improvement.
“I will do everything within my power to make sure he's never released,” Morvant said.