On June 1 and 2, 2023, the following testimony was offered:
Dr. Werner, one of the three psychiatrists Governor DeSantis appointed to evaluate Owen, testified at the competency hearing. Dr. Werner has been involved in “about five” of these evaluations. Owen “disclosed” his delusions “immediately.”
Dr. Werner said to Owen, “You don’t really believe the State believes that you didn’t really kill them. Nobody believes your delusions Mr. Owen. We all know you really killed them.”
Dr. Werner testified that Owen disclosed his delusions “immediately.” Without conducting any testing, Dr. Werner opined that Owen has a “high average” IQ of “100-110.” Dr. Werner believed that Owen was faking his delusion because Owen did other things “which had nothing to do with trying to absorb an essence through your, what he calls his hose or his penis.” Dr. Werner also conceded that if the commission is wrong, and Owen’s delusions are real, that would suggest severe mental illness.
Another of the Governor’s experts, Dr. Wade Myers, has been appointed to the commission approximately ten times. In all ten times, he has always concluded the person was competent to be executed. When asked about Owen’s delusions, Dr. Myers stated that “he described some beliefs” but that Dr. Myers “didn’t in any way believe that they were delusions.” He referred to Owen’s delusions as “fantastical.”
Dr. Myers agreed that schizophrenia is “really one of the most severe mental illnesses a human being can get.” In response to the question of whether Owen understood that he actually killed people, Owen said…”it feels like their souls had gone into him.”
Dr. Myers testified that Owen’s “parents had a problem with alcohol… his mother died of complications of cancer… and then his father was apparently really upset… he ended up dying of suicide several years later.”
When asked if Dr. Myers believed that if he were to find a defendant incompetent to be executed, he’d be appointed by the Governor again, Dr. Myers replied, “I don’t know.”
The psychiatrists had crime scene photos of one victim, Karen Slattery, but not photos of the victim the warrant was signed for, Georgianna Worden. While Dr. Myers stated that he did not show the photos to Owen, he stated that “it’s possible that Dr. Lazarou may have showed him this… when he was saying that he didn’t kill them… she said, ‘well, doesn’t this look like this person is dead?’” Dr. Myers conceded that he has never seen crime photos used in any other evaluation he’s participated in.
Dr. Lazarou was called to testify – this was her first time being appointed to this commission.
Dr. Lazarou replaced Dr. Alan Waldman on the Commission, a controversial psychiatrist who repeatedly testified that severely mentally ill death-row prisoners were faking their symptoms and competent to be executed. He was later barred from medical practice in Florida. Ironically and unfortunately, Dr. Waldman succumbed to an opioid addiction and admitted that while working as a forensic neuropsychiatrist, he “would occasionally take narcotic medication prior to testifying.”
Dr. Lazaro “specifically requested… pictures of the victims.” She “wanted to see the brutality by which this person beat these women or stabbed them to death… that goes toward the diagnoses that we ultimately gave.” She denied confronting Owen with the photos though the two other psychiatrists acknowledged that she did. Dr. Lazaro said, “I’m not there to hurt someone or give someone a thrill.” She continued on that Owen “has no delusion at all. That is a story he created 100 percent.”
Dr. Lazarou decided not to ask Owen about his family history because “it would be completely irrelevant.” “This is not a delusional belief. I’m not even answering that question… There has been no delusion that has anything to do with this. I don’t believe that. I don’t believe it at all.”
“I was tired of listening to the story. I heard it. I allowed him to have the story… I was over listening to the same story.”
While the three psychiatrists stated in their report that Owen was malingering his delusion and that it was “a feigned delusion,” the doctors admitted they not run any tests for malingering during the interview. No other doctor in 3 decades have concluded that Owen has malingered. If anything, Owen has underreported his symptoms.