Airman found not guilty by reason of insanity in stabbing
June 2, 2006
RAF MILDENHALL, England — A U.S. Air Force noncommissioned officer walked out of the Ipswich Crown Court on Thursday a free man after a jury found him innocent on two counts connected to the May 11, 2005, stabbing of a British man at a seaside motel.
Staff Sgt. Lorrenzo Sanchez, 28, of La Luz, N.M., was found not guilty by reason of insanity on the charges of attempted murder and unlawful wounding, according to the Ipswich Crown Court clerk.
The decision came nearly seven months after an initial trial ended in a hung jury. Sanchez had pleaded not guilty in both trails, contending he had no memory of the attack.
Both trials were unconventional in that Sanchez did not contest that he stabbed a 62-year-old British man 13 times after a night of heavy drinking. Sanchez was in the coastal Suffolk town setting up a training ground with a few of his comrades from the 352nd Special Operations Group.
Sanchez’s defense attorney, William Harbage, argued that Sanchez suffered from a “disassociated state” during the stabbings due to a string of emotional hardships the NCO had suffered in the period leading up to the attack.
The Iraq war veteran had lost several close friends in a military plane crash in March 2005 and had separated from his wife after a tumultuous relationship on the day of the stabbing.
Hence, the trial did not rely on forensic evidence or eyewitness testimony as much as it did on the conflicting diagnoses made by British psychologists who examined Sanchez after the assault.
The victim, Derek Thrower, as well as a handful of Sanchez’s military comrades and British nationals who were at the hotel the night of the attack, testified as to what they witnessed.
During the attack, Thrower fought the knife away from the survival-and-evasion expert and was able to stab Sanchez once in the abdomen. According to testimony, Sanchez congratulated the business traveler for his tenacity.
The jury ultimately agreed with Harbage and freed Sanchez on the belief that extreme stress led to his temporary insanity.
Sanchez, who already served nine months at a British correctional facility before being released on house arrest in the period leading up to the second trial, was unconditionally released from the British legal system soon after the jury of seven men and five women reached its verdict about 2:15 Thursday afternoon.
He was not available for immediate comment.