Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Mark Becker

The State's case

Prosecutor Scott Brown
Prosecutor Scott Brown

With so many witnesses to the crime and the nearly immediate capture and confession of Mark Becker, making a murder case on the facts posed no problem for prosecutors. The only question the jury would really have to grapple with was the question of Becker's mental state. In answer to that question, prosecutor Scott Brown would repeat over and over during his arguments: "Mental illness does not equal insanity."

The State called two psychiatric experts who agreed that Becker suffered from paranoid schizophrenia but opined that Becker had understood what he was doing when he shot Ed Thomas and known that it was wrong.

Dr. Michael Spodak conceded the defense's contention that Becker was at times psychotic and suffered from hallucinations, but pointed to Becker's rational behavior on June 24. For example, Becker had practiced shooting before heading out and had spoken to several people in his quest to find Thomas, and had easily processed the information they had given him. Becker, the State emphasized, never mentioned to any of those people that Ed Thomas was Satan or that he planned to free the town's children by ridding them of a "devil tyrant."

Another psychiatrist, Dr. Michael Taylor, spoke with Becker two months after his arrest and came away with the same basic conclusions. Taylor said Becker told him he considered killing Thomas' entire family, but dismissed the idea. He also pointed out that Becker took care not to shoot any of the kids in the weight room. Taylor cited those details as evidence Becker could distinguish right from wrong. Taylor called attention to one crucial exchange with the defendant — he asked Becker what he would have done if a police officer had been standing outside the weight room that morning. Becker allegedly told Taylor: "I would have put my gun in my pocket and gotten in my car and gone home."


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