Man found fit to stand trial for murdering his mother

Man found fit to stand trial for murdering his mother

URBANA — A Champaign man accused of murdering his mother last spring and setting a fire to hide her death has been found fit to stand trial.

However, the lawyer for Terry J. Brownlee, 32, is now asking that a psychiatrist examine him to see if he was sane at the time of the alleged murder.

Brownlee was arrested April 12, hours after the body of Sharon Shirley Brownlee, 61, of Urbana, was found inside the burned efficiency apartment that Brownlee rented at 407 S. State St.

He was subsequently charged with first-degree murder, aggravated arson, residential arson and concealment of a homicidal death.

Mrs. Brownlee's body was found on the couch under blankets. She had been stabbed to death.

Brownlee admitted stabbing his mother after an argument with her at his home, then setting the fire, which was reported about 6:10 a.m. on that Friday.

Forensic psychiatrist Dr. Larry Jeckel of Champaign evaluated Brownlee for fitness after Assistant Public Defender Janie Miller-Jones asked in May that her client be examined.

In June, he was found unfit to and put in the custody of the Department of Human Services for mental health treatment.

On Oct. 30, Miller-Jones and Assistant State's Attorney Dan Clifton agreed that Judge Heidi Ladd should consider reports from professionals at DHS that said Brownlee is now fit to stand trial. After reviewing the reports, Ladd found Brownlee fit.

A finding of fitness means a defendant understands the charges against him and is capable of participating in his defense with his lawyer.

Sanity deals with the notion of whether a defendant, as a result of a disease or mental defect, has the capacity to appreciate the criminality of his conduct.

While the prosecution has the burden of proving a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in a case where the defendant claims insanity, the burden is on the defense to establish insanity by "clear and convincing evidence."

Now that Brownlee has been found fit, Jeckel will examine him again on the question of sanity.

His case has been continued to Ladd's Dec. 17 pretrial call.

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