Court Hears Laney Status Status
By DAYNA WORCHEL
Prosecutors and defense attorneys declined to comment Monday on the results of a closed mental health hearing for a New Chapel Hill woman acquitted by reason of insanity in the 2003 murders of two of her young sons.
The status hearing for Deanna Laney, 47, took place in the Smith County 114th District Court.
F.R. "Buck" Files said he could not state the outcome of the hearing for his client, who was present in court on Monday, he confirmed.
Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham said he would leave it up to Files to comment on what happened in the hearing on Monday, but Files declined, saying, "I would love to visit with you, but I can't."
Ms. Laney was released from the Kerrville State Hospital recently, although Bingham said in May that he did not know the exact date she was released.
Ms. Laney had been at the Kerrville State Hospital, a nonsecure inpatient facility, since 2007 after she transferred in June 2004 from the Vernon State Hospital, a maximum-security facility, court documents stated.
Between August and December 2005, Ms. Laney's treatment team granted her brief passes off the hospital campus in Kerrville.
In 2007, after attorneys discovered that Ms. Laney had been transferred from Vernon Hospital to Kerrville Hospital and was being allowed unsupervised furloughs by doctors, Judge Cynthia Kent, who presided over the original trial, put a stop to it at the request of prosecutors.
There was a closed-door civil commitment hearing for Ms. Laney in November in the 114th District Court.
"All of the doctors who came to the November hearing testified that she wasn't mentally ill," Bingham said. He added that his office did everything possible to find evidence to allow Ms. Laney to remain in the mental hospital, including calling in his own experts to testify.
Judge Christi Kennedy ordered Ms. Laney released sometime after that November hearing.
Bingham said he respected the verdict of the jury and that Judge Kennedy "did what she had to do and followed the law." He said he wants the public to understand that his office and Judge Kennedy had to follow the law.
According to Judge Kennedy's order, "Witnesses testified that Deanna Laney was not likely to cause harm to herself, that she was not likely to cause serious harm to others and that she was not experiencing substantial mental deterioration of her ability to function independently. All witnesses testified that there was no further need for Deanna Laney to continue inpatient treatment."
Bingham, in May, declined to comment on where he thought Ms. Laney was now living.
A Smith County jury found Ms. Laney, a then-43-year-old housewife who home-schooled her children, not guilty by reason of insanity for smashing her sons' heads with rocks
on Mother's Day weekend in 2003.
Joshua, 8, and Luke, 6, were found dead in the front yard of the family's New Chapel Hill home, and then 14-month-old Aaron was found seriously injured in his crib.
Ms. Laney's attorneys admitted during the trial that she bludgeoned her children with rocks, but contended that she was insane and did not know that what she was doing was wrong. Ms. Laney told authorities God told her to kill her children.
Under Texas law, people are found legally insane if, at the time of an offense, they did not know their conduct was wrong because of some mental illness or defect.
Ms. Laney was defended in trial by attorneys Files, Tonda Curry and LaJuanda Lacy, while Bingham, former First Assistant District Attorney Brett Harrison and current First Assistant District Attorney April Sikes prosecuted the case.