Prosecutors had barely rested their case against Jonathan Broyhill on Monday before public defender Joseph Arbour got into a heated argument with the judge about a prison psychiatrist he wanted to call to the stand.
Throughout the trial, the defense team has acknowledged that Broyhill, 33, wielded the knife that fatally injured Jamie Kirk Hahn, a political strategist and fundraiser.
But the public defenders also have argued that Broyhill did not go to the North Raleigh home of Jamie and Nation Hahn on April 22, 2013, intent on killing anyone other than himself.
Zeke Morse, the Raleigh police department’s lead detective on the case, testified that Broyhill told him shortly after the stabbings that he was suicidal and had thought “a lot” about killing himself.
Arbour wanted to call Dr. Badri Hamra, a N.C. prison psychiatrist, as the defense team’s first witness to testify about four medicines he prescribed for Broyhill – Effexor XR, Zoloft, Buspar and Risperdal, medicines to treat depression, anxiety and psychoses.
Prosecutor Doug Faucette objected, arguing that though the public defenders had given notice before the trial that they did not plan to use a “diminished capacity” defense, that was what they were trying to do.
If a defense team plans to argue that a defendant was operating in a state of diminished mental capacity, prosecutors get their own mental health experts to examine the suspect.
Such exams, defense attorneys say, can be risky. Prosecutors often use the exams as an opportunity to get statements from the accused they otherwise might not have had before trial.
Faucette argued the defense essentially was trying “to make an end run” and introduce mental health evidence without following the rules associated with such a defense.
Judge Paul Ridgeway would not allow the defense to call Hamra immediately. He said he wanted to do his own research and would make a decision before Tuesday morning.
Arbour raised objections and for the second time during the trial accused the judge of issuing rulings more favorable to the prosecution.
“No sir,” responded Ridgeway. “I’ve been ruling in favor of the law.”
Given the questions, the defense shifted its witness lineup and called Broyhill’s mother to the stand. Her testimony was quick, but exposed strife that developed between her and her son after she left his father during Broyhill’s senior year of high school. In the ensuing 13 years, the two rarely saw each other.
Questions about a pastor
Prosecutors and the defense team agree that Broyhill told many lies and feigned many illnesses over the years. He told Jamie and Nation Hahn he had gallstone surgery, when he didn’t. He told them he had multiple sclerosis and falsely claimed to have pancreatic cancer weeks before the stabbing.
Broyhill’s mother added one more to the list of illnesses that her son claimed to have. He often mimicked symptoms of other people he knew with diseases, and he told his mother he suffered from rheumatoid arthritis in 2011 and was on an injection treatment plan like the one she had. His grandmother died of pancreatic cancer.
The testimony from Broyhill’s mother capped a morning in which Arbour raised questions about what Broyhill knew when he told the lead detective key details that led to the charges.
Arbour noted that the Rev. Nancy Petty, a pastor at Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, had been allowed to discuss the case with the defendant before police realized it.
Petty, also a chaplain at WakeMed hospital, had permission to visit with Broyhill while he was being treated for self-inflicted wounds. Several of those visits came after she visited with the family of Nation and Jamie Hahn.
Arbour has worked in a plodding style to raise questions about the quickly shaped narrative about the stabbings.
Broyhill and Jamie Hahn were the only two downstairs in the Hahns’ North Raleigh home when the violence began.
Nation Hahn was in an upstairs bathroom when he first heard his wife scream. Jamie Hahn called out for Nation Hahn, her husband of four years, then she called out Broyhill’s name.
There has been no evidence presented during the past eight days of testimony about how the attack started or what might have led to the violence.
Arbour contended on Monday morning that Petty, who reportedly leaned over Broyhill inside his hospital room and whispered to him, might have said things that created false memories of what happened inside the Hahn home.
“We don’t know what was whispered to Mr. Broyhill?” Arbour asked Morse. “Correct,” Morse said.
“We don’t know what information was put into his mind at that time by Rev. Petty, isn’t that correct?” Arbour asked.
On April 23, Morse interviewed Broyhill inside his hospital room, the first of several interviews. On April 26, after several visits with Petty, Broyhill provided a more detailed report to Morse about what happened.
Morse said the police department allows spiritual advisers in hospital rooms, but acknowledged he would not have allowed a pastor to discuss details of a case with a suspect.
“That attacks the credibility of what he might say later?” Arbour asked. “Yes sir,” Morse said.