Prosecutor can't show accused cannibal criminally responsible

Plea hearing set June 24 for accused Alexander Kinyua

  • Alexander Kinyua, 21, is charged with first-degree murder of of a man whose dismembered remains were found in Kinyua's home and a nearby church trash container. Kinyua also admitted to ingesting the heart and portions of the brain of the victim, according to charging statement.
Alexander Kinyua, 21, is charged with first-degree murder… (Photo courtesy of Harford…)
April 17, 2013|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

Harford County's top prosecutor said Wednesday that he does not have enough evidence to show that Alexander Kinyua is criminally responsible for killing a family friend and eating his organs last year.

A state psychiatric hospital previously found that Kinyua, 22, was not criminally responsible for his actions in a separate assault case because he was suffering from severe psychosis.

In the assault case, Kinyua has already been committed indefinitely, and a team of doctors and an administrative law judge would have to agree to his release. If the judge in the murder case accepts a finding that Kinyua is not criminally responsible, he would not face a prison sentence.

The statement by Harford County State's Attorney Joseph I. Cassilly clears the way for the court to be presented the hospital's findings.

Kinyua faces first-degree murder and a weapons charge in Harford after he allegedly told police that he had killed and dismembered 37-year-old Kujoe Bonsafo Agyei-Kodie while out on bail for the assault, which took place on the campus of Morgan State University, where Kinyua was a student. He has been scheduled for a plea hearing June 24, court records show.

In December, Kinyua pleaded guilty but not criminally responsible in the Morgan attack. At that time, Cassilly said he would push forward with the murder case and attempt to prove that Kinyua was in control of his actions at the time of Agyei-Kodie's death.

Cassilly said he's seen psychiatric reports from Clifton T. Perkins Hospital in both the assault and murder cases and has had an independent expert review Kinyua's mental state. He said Wednesday that "we have basically the same diagnosis" as the first report.

"To dispute the Perkins findings, I need some sort of evidence," he said. "I don't have any opinion that would dispute their findings."

Kinyua's attorney, Donald Daneman, will have no comment, according to a person who answered the phone at his office.

At Kinyua's hearing in the city case, a judge described how his mind slowly but steadily deteriorated — he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and believed reptilian aliens were coming to destroy Earth. He is now being held at a psychiatric hospital, where he takes two psychotropic drugs.

"The evidence is overwhelming that Mr. Kinyua was suffering from a mental illness at the time of the offense," Judge Gale E. Rasin said at the hearing.

Julie A. Drake, a former city prosecutor who is now a professor at the University of Maryland School of Social Work, said it is rare for prosecutors to contest a medical determination that a defendant is not criminally responsible.

"Normally, the state accepts whatever the court medical services recommends," Drake said.

She said in those cases, the defendant will enter a guilty plea and the state will read into the record the opinion of the psychiatrists. The judge will then find that the defendant is not criminally responsible, and the defendant is committed to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

"If at any point he's medicated sufficiently or reaches a stage where the facility believes he is no longer a danger to himself or others, he's released, but it's a conditional release," Drake said. "That's a little bit like probation, and the defendant is required to take his medication, check in for counseling."

If a defendant doesn't comply, the hospital can request a warrant, she said.

"I have examples of horrific cases where people committed horrific crimes, but once medicated they were perfectly fine and safe to be in society," Drake said. "I think it's absolutely appropriate for mental health professionals to be the ones taking responsibility for those decisions."

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