Judge accepts mental illness pleas in 2014 Whitewater stabbing case

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Jonah Beleckis
Tuesday, April 18, 2017

ELKHORN—A man convicted of trying to murder a Whitewater woman was found not guilty Tuesday because of mental disease or defect.

The attempted murder case against Jason L. Grant was about to go to the jury when he changed his plea during the trial Tuesday.

Judge Kristine Drettwan found Grant attempted to kill a Whitewater woman at her apartment Nov. 17, 2014, but she ruled Grant had been unable to conform his behavior to the law because of a mental disease or defect.

Defense attorney James Duquette said Grant, 30, Madison, changed his pleas to guilty after Drettwan ruled the jury would not be allowed to consider convicting Grant of first-degree recklessly endangering safety rather than attempted first-degree intentional homicide.

After Grant pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree intentional homicide, strangulation and suffocation and false imprisonment, Drettwan accepted pleas of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect, Duquette said.

Grant on Feb. 2, 2015, had pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

The charges stem from an incident in which Grant stabbed with a kitchen knife a 32-year-old woman he met on Facebook, according to court documents.

The victim had invited Grant to spend the night at her apartment, according to the criminal complaint. Grant was drinking and asked for the victim's prescription medications, which led to an argument when she refused.

The victim went to her bedroom and called a friend to pick her up. Grant then entered the room and pushed, choked and hit the woman, according to the complaint.

The woman later locked herself in the bedroom, but Grant broke down the door and stabbed her multiple times with a kitchen knife, according to the complaint.

Before the attorneys were set to give their closing arguments Tuesday, Drettwan ruled against Duquette's request that the jury be allowed to consider a lesser offense. When the jurors returned from their lunch break, they were excused and the trial ended, according to online court records.

Two doctors' reports supported the mental illness plea, Duquette said.

Walworth County District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld, who filled in for Assistant District Attorney Haley Johnson at the trial, did not argue against the ruling, according to court records.

The next step for the court is to determine Grant's treatment, Duquette said. A finding of not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect results in commitment in a mental health facility for rehabilitation and treatment, not incarceration in a prison for punishment, he said.

In the coming weeks, additional reports will be filed to help the judge decide on treatment during a hearing at 4 p.m. Friday, May 5, Duquette said.

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