An insanity defence is being considered for an ex-Marine accused of killing four members of a Florida family under the delusion they were part of a child sex trafficking ring.
A lawyer for Bryan Riley told a judge Monday more time is needed to gather details of Rileys past and hire mental health experts before a decision is made on his defence.
We are looking at a defence of insanity as an option, Assistant Public Defender Jane McNeill said at a hearing at which she asked for a years delay in the case.
There is so much work that must be done before we can make such a determination.
Riley, 33, could face the death penalty if convicted in the September 5 shooting rampage at a home in Lakeland, Florida, in which four people died including an infant in his mothers arms.
Riley faces 22 charges including murder, arson, kidnapping, burglary and animal cruelty for killing the family dog.
An 11-year-old girl survived despite several gunshot wounds.
Investigators say Riley told them he believed the family — whom he encountered randomly — was involved in child sex trafficking and that he had been told by God to rescue a purported child victim named Amber.
There was no child by that name at the home but Riley had seen the girl before the shooting outside in the yard.
Prosecutors asked Polk County Circuit Judge Jalal Harb for no more than 45 days in extra time for the defence.
Under Florida law, notice of an insanity defence must be provided within 15 days of arraignment unless a judge grants an extension — and Rileys arraignment is Tuesday.
The defence will have plenty of time to do what they need to do, said Assistant State Attorney Lauren Perry.
A case put on by the state of Florida rarely gets better with time. Harb did not immediately rule and said Rileys arraignment, when he would formally enter a plea, will go forward Tuesday.
There is a lot to digest, the judge said.
If Rileys lawyers opt for an insanity defence, they would need to show Riley was so seriously afflicted by a mental defect at the time of the slayings that he did not know what he was doing or could not tell right from wrong.
Thats different from being found competent to stand trial, said former federal prosecutor David S Weinstein.
Its not impossible. Its difficult, but not impossible, said Weinstein, a Miami defence lawyer not connected to the Riley case.
If jurors found Riley not guilty by reason of insanity, the judge would then decide whether he should be committed to a mental hospital, provided other forms of treatment or simply released.
Riley appeared via video link at the hearing, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and a mask. He did not speak.
Officials say Riley, who served with the Marines in Iran and Afghanistan, had three weapons with him and fired at least 100 shots in the main home and a smaller one in back where Catherine Delgado, 62, was the first to be killed.
The victims are Justice Gleason, 40; his 33-year-old girlfriend, Theresa Lanham; their baby boy, Jody, who was born in May; and Delgado, who was Lanhams mother and owned the property. Gleasons daughter survived.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Federal staff and is auto-published from a syndicated feed.)