Jurors in Fla. murder case won't hear about defendant's PTSD

By JESSICA LIPSCOMB | Naples Daily News, Fla. | Published: May 14, 2014

NAPLES, Fla. — Jurors chosen for a second-degree murder trial this week in Collier County won’t hear about any post-traumatic stress disorder or military sexual trauma the defendant might have experienced during his time as an Army soldier, a judge has ordered.

John Orr, who is accused of fatally stabbing a man in Lake Park in 2011, told police in an early interview that he suffers from PTSD stemming from his service in Central America in the 1990s. On Monday, Collier Circuit Judge Ramiro Mañalich granted a motion from Orr’s defense team to eliminate all references to PTSD, military sexual trauma, ingestion of medication and any other condition from which he may have been suffering.

Jury selection began Tuesday, with Mañalich whittling down the pool of 40 potential jurors to about 25. On Wednesday, state prosecutors and the defense team, led by attorney Mike McDonnell, will begin questioning the remaining jurors to choose a panel of six jurors and two alternates.

Orr, now 39, was arrested in October 2011 in connection with the death of 63-year-old Jon Wayne Joseph, who was stabbed more than 70 times. According to Naples police, Orr stopped at Joseph’s house in Lake Park and asked for Bert Newcombe, an old friend whom he believed lived with Joseph.

Joseph told him Newcombe did not live there, prompting Orr to leave unhappy, according to a witness. Joseph then hopped on his bike to catch up with Orr, and soon after, the two men got into a confrontation. After the fight ended, Orr walked home and told his father, “I probably killed a guy,” according to an arrest report.

Orr initially tried to claim immunity under the state’s “stand your ground” law, but Circuit Judge Frank Baker denied the motion in March 2012. At the hearing, a medical examiner and crime scene investigator said blood evidence suggested Orr was not being pinned to the ground when he stabbed Joseph, as Orr had claimed.

In trial, however, neither the medical examiner nor the crime scene investigator will be able to talk about blood pattern analysis in relation to how Orr and Joseph were positioned, Mañalich said in a ruling Monday.

McDonnell, Orr’s defense attorney, said this week he will continue to argue self-defense. On Wednesday, he will start questioning jurors on everything from their views on “stand your ground” to how notorious cases like O.J. Simpson and George Zimmerman might have shaped their views on the trial process.

The defense will be assisted by Melissa Pigott, a Pompano Beach-based consultant hired to read jurors’ body language and help choose the six-person panel.

McDonnell and assistant state attorney Andreas Gardiner, the lead prosecutor on the case, estimated the jury could be sworn in by Wednesday afternoon, with opening statements to begin soon after.


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