Was She Insane? Experts Disagree in Lawson Trial

By Megan Trent

May 26, 2011 Updated May 26, 2011 at 6:59 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) -- Mental competency was the focus of the day, as two mental health experts took the stand during the third day of trial for 31-year-old Latisha Lawson.

A clinical psychologist and psychiatrist were called to testify as the court’s witnesses Thursday. Both met separately with Lawson, but ended up with far different conclusions. As the court’s witnesses, neither were directly supporting the prosecution, nor the defense.

The clinical psychologist said Lawson was sane at the time of two-year-old Jeziah King’s death and knew right from wrong. Prosecutors argued that she hid the body in a tote for two years, because she knew that her actions were wrong.

The psychiatrist, however, testified that said that Lawson was insane at the time of the little boy’s death. Defense attorneys cited Lawson’s statements that her son’s face and body shifted in those of a demon’s as further proof of her disconnect with reality.

At the time of Jeziah King’s death in November 2009, Lawson was living with Natasha Hawkins. Hawkins, who allegedly held the boy down during the exorcism, is also being charged in the death. All three of her children were put on the stand Thursday. The children – ages five, seven, and ten – all witnessed Jeziah’s death.

Prosecution and defense attorneys both asked the children for details surrounding the death. All said that they were forced to drink the oil and vinegar mixture made by the two adults, with the oldest recalling the women saying they had to drink it if they “wanted to be saved.”

The kids also said that both women were holding Jeziah down on the couch as he was forced to swallow the mixture several times. After Lawson’s son’s death, we again heard that the two women slept with his deceased body at least once. According to their testimonies, the kids also recalled the smell of Jeziah’s decaying body as it was eventually hid in a tote in the closet.

Lawson’s mother also testified in front of jurors about trying to make contact with her daughter and grandchildren. She said she called the Department of Child Services and the Fort Wayne Police Department several times. In addition, she testified that she stopped by Hawkins’s apartment on numerous occasions, but no one would ever open the door for her. She said that she and her daughter once had a very close relationship, but Lawson cut ties after moving in with Hawkins.

The detective on the case then showed a taped interview he had with Lawson about her son’s cause of death – asphyxia due to compression of the neck. The detective told Lawson that Jeziah had been choked, but she insisted that she had not choked him.

The interview showed Lawson absolutely convinced her son was possessed by a demon, saying that her son called himself the name of a demon, his face morphed into a demon’s, and he spoke in tongues during the attempted exorcism. Lawson said that she knew it sounded crazy, but it was like something you would see in the movie, The Exorcist.

By 4:00 P.M. the prosecution had not rested. The defense has yet to call their witnesses. The judge predicted, though, that jury deliberation could begin late Friday.

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