A Fayette County jury Monday night found a Lexington woman guilty but mentally ill in the fatal shooting of the maintenance supervisor at her apartment complex last year.
Latarra Nicole Martin, 26, was convicted of murder and three counts of wanton endangerment in the death of Jeff Wilburn on March 29, 2009. Martin's trial in the courtroom of Fayette Circuit Judge James D. Ishmael Jr. began last week.
The jury recommended a sentence of 24 years in prison. Formal sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 5. The jury deliberated about eight hours before returning its verdict.
Martin, a local unsigned rap artist known as "Doll Baby," and Wilburn lived across the hall from each other at Lakeshore Apartments, on Fontaine Road at Lakeshore Drive.
Throughout the trial, neither the defense attorneys nor prosecutors disputed that Martin shot Wilburn; rather, her mental state was in question.
A court-ordered evaluation of Martin at the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center found that she suffered from a personality disorder, but prosecutors have said the competency tests ultimately ruled that Martin was fit to stand trial or, in essence, "was not insane at the time she shot Jeff Wilburn."
Prosecutors agreed that Martin had psychiatric problems but said the problems were not enough to preclude her from being found guilty of murder. The prosecution asked the jury for a verdict of guilty but mentally ill during closing arguments.
Defense attorneys have argued that murder was not an appropriate charge because Martin was mentally ill and suffering delusions on the day of the shooting. They said a lesser homicide charge — first- or second-degree manslaughter or reckless homicide — would be more appropriate and asked the jury Monday to find Martin not guilty by reason of insanity.
Martin appeared at the trial wearing a pinstriped business suit. Save for the occasional twitch of the head and arms — tremors, defense attorney Kate Dunn said, were a side affect of her medication — there was little sign that her mental health might be questionable. Dunn told jurors that Martin had been given anti-psychotic medication. Despite her composure, "she is insane," Dunn said.
Assistant Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Cindy Rieker said that even though Martin probably was mentally ill, "it doesn't rise to the level of insanity."
"The insane cannot be treated by pills," she said.
Attorneys disagreed over several aspects of Martin's mental state, including whether she was suffering an extreme emotional disturbance, defined in court documents as "a temporary state of mind so enraged, inflamed, or disturbed as to overcome one's judgment and to cause one to act uncontrollably from the impelling force rather than from evil or malicious purposes."
There was no "impelling force" in Martin's case, Rieker said. But Dunn said the triggering event was that Martin heard police sirens earlier in the day and at some point saw Wilburn hanging up a telephone.
In her delusion, Dunn said, Martin thought that Wilburn was her father, who is a corporal at the Fayette County jail, and that he had called the police to come to get her.
"She believed the police were coming after her because she tried to drown herself in the bathtub," Dunn said.
Attorneys also argued about whether marijuana played a role in Martin's mental state. According to testimony, detectives searched Martin's apartment extensively after the shooting but found no evidence of drugs or drug paraphernalia.
"They found no reason to test her," Dunn said.
However, psychiatrist Greg Perri of the Kentucky Correctional Psychiatric Center, who diagnosed Martin as having personality disorder with schizoid and paranoid tendencies, testified that Martin said in interviews she had bought marijuana in the weeks before the shooting. Perri was concerned it could have contributed to her paranoia, Rieker said.
The attorneys also attacked the credibility of each other's expert witnesses. Dunn said Perri hadn't reviewed all the evidence in Martin's case, while Rieker said the defense's witness, Dr. Peter Schilling, didn't spend enough time interviewing and assessing Martin.
Martin was an amateur rapper who had several tracks on her profile on MySpace.com, a social networking Web site. Dunn suggested "Doll Baby," Martin's rapper persona, had become a separate personality at the time of the shooting.
When she was arrested, officers asked Martin whether she knew what she was charged with, and she replied "identity theft."
"She said, 'Latarra Martin might be charged with murder, but I'm Doll Baby,'" Dunn said.