A man with paranoid schizophrenia who stabbed a woman he was having an affair with to death has been found guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.
The jury returned their verdict by a majority of 10 to two, after eight hours and 34 minutes of deliberations over two days. They agreed that the accused, Valerijs Leitons, should be seen as substantially diminished in his responsibility due to the nature of his mental disorder and found guilty of manslaughter on those grounds.
The jury rejected the defence case that Leitons’ “deep-seated and engrained mental illness” had “crossed the threshold” of diminished responsibility and brought him into “a further place”, namely not guilty of her murder by reason of insanity.
Leitons (25), a Latvian national but with an address at St Kevin’s Gardens, Dartry, had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to murdering Skaidrite Valdgeima (34) on June 26th, 2019 at the Binary Hub aparthotel on Bonham Street, Dublin 8.
The week-long trial at the Central Criminal Court heard that Leitons and Ms Valdgeima, a married woman, had struck up a friendship that became a sexual relationship. The couple met at a concert in May 2019 and began seeing each other frequently over the following weeks.
A pathologist’s report found Ms Valdgeima had suffered “multiple penetrating slash and stab wounds, particularly to the face, head and neck”.
Dr Allan Cala, who carried out the postmortem examination, testified that the deceased had “defence-type injuries on both arms”. He suggested these likely happened when she tried to grab the knife or tried to block it.
The accused told gardaí that “we were playing a sexual game” when he was arrested.
Consultant forensic psychiatrist Dr Damien Smith from the Central Mental Hospital told the trial that the accused was suffering with a mental disorder but was not impaired enough to meet any of the three criteria for a “not guilty by reason of insanity” verdict.
The expert witness, who was called by the prosecution, testified that the incident happened during an “acute psychotic lapse of paranoid schizophrenia most likely precipitated by his non-adherence with prescribed antipsychotic medication up to three weeks prior”.
A psychiatrist called by the defence, Dr Ronan Mullaney, disagreed with Dr Smith and found that Leitons was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the offence, that he fulfilled all three criteria under the Criminal Law (Insanity) Act 2006 and qualified for a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Dr Mullaney said the accused’s mental disorder was so “apparent, comprehensive and overwhelming” that he was not required to consider the partial defence of diminished responsibility having made the finding that Leitons had a more significant mental disorder.
In his charge to the jury, Mr Justice Paul Burns said they could return four verdicts in relation to the murder charge against Mr Leitons, namely; guilty of murder, not guilty, not guilty of murder but guilty of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility or not guilty by reason of insanity. The case was unusual, the judge said, in that neither side was pushing for one of the standard verdicts of guilty of murder or not guilty.
Following the verdict, Mr Justice Burns thanked the jury and exempted them from jury service for five years.
The judge remanded Leitons in custody until December 8th for a sentence hearing and directed the preparation of a victim impact report on that date. The case will be mentioned on November 23rd.