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Deliberation Begins in McGinnis Murder Trial

Posted: Friday, September 4th, 2009 at 6:30 am
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The legal fate of a 39-year-old Knoxville resident charged with murder in the first degree is in the hands of twelve jury members in the Marion County Courthouse. Closing arguments wrapped up and deliberation began Thursday in the trial for Steven Dean McGinnis, who is charged in the September, 2008 shooting death of Knoxville resident Robert Ohl.

One of McGinnis’ claimed defenses in the trial has been insanity during the shooting, which occurred at McGinnis’ trailer at 975 Underwood Drive south of Knoxville. Defense attorney Richard Phelps told the jury that McGinnis, a Gulf-War veteran diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, was having some kind of PTSD episode when he shot Ohl, and did not know the consequences of his actions. A former inmate at the Marion County jail also testified during the trial that McGinnis was known to have at least once moved underneath his bed in an Army-crawl position and to also have woken up screaming, and disoriented at times while in prison. McGinnis also claims intoxication and self-defense, with Phelps arguing McGinnis consumed multiple beers the day of the shooting, and Ohl as having a past felony charge and Ohl’s widow, Rhonda, had a restraining order on Ohl at one point.

However, state prosecutor Tom Miller argued that McGinnis was fully aware of his actions when he went into his trailer, loaded and chambered his shotgun, went back outside, and raised, pointed and fired the weapon, hitting Ohl three times. McGinnis told law enforcement the night of the shooting that Ohl was seated in a chair when he was shot. Miller added that McGinnis never told authorities or doctors that he suffered from a ‘flashback’ when he shot Ohl, which is one of the occurrences of PTSD and can affect memory. Miller also says the fact that McGinnis left the scene and called multiple people saying he had shot Ohl was evidence he knew the difference between right and wrong, and was not experiencing a PTSD-caused hallucination or reliving of a traumatic event.

Michael Taylor, a psychiatrist who interviewed McGinnis after Ohl’s death, testified Wednesday that McGinnis was not affected enough by alcohol, his PTSD, or by any of the medications he was taking, to not understand the consequences of his actions. Dr. Taylor also said the testimony McGinnis gave during a psychiatric evaluation and law enforcement questioning conflicted in both McGinnis’ thoughts on Ohl, and how much alcohol he had the day of the shooting, among other inconsistencies.

The jury deliberated late into Thursday afternoon, and is set to continue deliberation Friday. KNIA/KRLS News will bring you the most up to date information as soon as it becomes available.