Man cleared by insanity defense faces new hearing

When Michael Kane was held at the county jail in 2002, he was, according to doctors’ accounts, a mess.

The 18-year-old, who was charged with stabbing his friend to death after consuming two hits of the hallucinogen LSD, told a psychologist that he was feeling paranoid. He admitted to hearing voices and was kept in isolation.

While restrained, he gnawed quarter-sized wounds into his shoulders.

A jury in 2004 found Kane not guilty by reason of insanity and he was shipped to Lake’s Crossing, the state’s facility for mentally ill suspects.

Kane, 24, is now on the brink of being released from the facility. District Judge Jennifer Togliatti will have a hearing today to determine whether Kane should be sent to a halfway house on conditional release.

Dr. Howard Henson, a psychiatrist and the medical director at Lake’s Crossing, testified during a Feb. 29 hearing in District Court that Kane is the highest functioning patient at Lake’s Crossing he has seen in 22 years. He told the court that Kane isn’t suffering from any mental illness and that keeping him at Lake’s Crossing “impedes his opportunities to improve himself.”

“There’s no reason for him to be at that facility,” Henson said. “There’s nothing for us to treat.”

Under Nevada law, a person found not guilty by reason of insanity can only be held while they are deemed mentally ill. They are sent to Lake’s Crossing and their case is reviewed about every six months.

The controversial insanity plea was banned by the 1995 Legislature, but defendants were allowed to plead guilty but mentally ill. That charge could bring prison time.

In 2001, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that defendants could pursue a not guilty by reason of insanity plea. A recently passed Nevada law — nicknamed “John’s law” after 23-year-old John Trowbridge, the man Kane stabbed to death — allows the state to release people such as Kane with court-imposed conditions such as counseling, among other things.

Trowbridge’s mother, Robbin Trowbridge Benko, initiated and helped author the law.

Kane’s case has become one of the state’s most high-profile insanity defenses.

Kane has tried to get released previously but authorities and Trowbridge’s family argued that Kane was still mentally ill and posed a danger to the community.

On Thursday, Benko said Kane shouldn’t be released but took solace knowing that the law allows him to be monitored if he is released.

“If he’s released, he won’t be able to contain himself and he will take another victim,” she said. “He needs to be in a facility where he can be monitored.”

Benko, who flew to Las Vegas from her home in Indiana to attend the hearing, said she didn’t think a halfway house could adequately monitor Kane.

Kane was born in Henderson but moved around when he was a child.

He lived briefly in South Korea and Oregon, returning to Southern Nevada in his teens.

He was an excellent student and received As in classes for gifted students, according to a doctor’s report.

But Kane began to change as he got older. His grades began to deteriorate in middle school, and he dropped out in the ninth grade.

A doctor’s report stated that Kane had tried illegal drugs, including marijuana, Ecstasy, methamphetamines, LSD and heroin.

In 2001, at the age of 18, Kane stabbed Trowbridge to death with a dagger while he and some friends were playing the video game “Bloody Roar III.” Kane was under the influence of acid at the time of the killing and had also used methamphetamines in the weeks before the slaying, authorities said.

Doctors have given Kane different diagnoses. One labeled him a paranoid schizophrenic. But others diagnosed Kane with an amphetamine-induced psychotic disorder.

He was initially prescribed medications but hasn’t taken any psychotropic medications in several years.

According to a Lake’s Crossing report dated Feb. 5, Kane hasn’t shown signs of mental illness and “should be conditionally released.” He has already been allowed to take unescorted walks away from the Lake’s Crossing facility, even going so far as the nearby Department of Motor Vehicles office to get an identification card.

But doctors also warn that Kane poses a “moderate risk” for involvement in criminal activity or violence if he takes drugs such as methamphetamines.

In May, Kane threatened another patient at Lake’s Crossing, according to a report by Dr. Elizabeth Neighbors, a psychologist at the facility. He also has a 2004 charge of battery by a prisoner, to which he pleaded guilty in 2007.

But Henson maintained during the February hearing that Kane shouldn’t be held at Lake’s Crossing any longer.

“He’s not mentally ill,” he said.

Contact reporter David Kihara at dkihara@reviewjournal.com or (702) 380-1039.

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