Accused Face-Biting Killer’s Lawyer: Dr. Phil Interview ‘Has Tainted Jury Pool’

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WEST PALM BEACH (CBSMiami) – The lawyer for accused face-biting killer Austin Harrouff believes the release of an interview he did with Dr. Phil McGraw “has now tainted the jury pool.”

Here is the entire statement from attorney Nellie King:

Austin Harrouff’s bedside interview which aired on CBS’s “Dr. Phil” was done without the knowledge and advice of his counsel. While it should not have occurred given Austin’s medical and psychological condition, the tape does tend to show his mental illness.

The interview was conducted from Austin’s hospital room days after he emerged from a coma. He was heavily medicated and suffering from shock and physical trauma after nearly dying from toxic fluids he ingested on scene and because of his mental illness. Austin was also treated for brain hematomas and other severe medical issues which necessitated a near 2-month hospital stay. Critically, the facts are indisputable that, upon admission to the hospital, Austin was actively psychotic, whereupon he was immediately Baker Acted and emergency treatment focused on mental stabilization. Austin had a psychological break, as evidenced by the auditory and visual hallucinations, paranoia, and persecutory ideations he experienced and, more importantly, as recounted by numerous people, both relatives and non-relatives, who were around Austin in the days and weeks before the murders. There is a mountain of information about this young man that will substantiate his mental illness at the time of the offense. The fact that some of this was discussed in an interview with a TV personality does nothing to change the fact that Austin was mentally ill at the time of the incident. He remains under treatment for his mental issues at the present time.

The defense fought the video’s release pre-trial because there are concerns about whether some, or all, of this information would be admissible at trial, the mental state of Austin when Dr. Phil entered the sanctity of his hospital room remotely via Skype, and the fact that the tape’s premature release in this fashion has now tainted the jury pool no matter how far and wide the parties search for panelists. The video serves no purpose other than to further the pain of the victims’ families.

Related: Accused Face-Biting Killer Calls Murders ‘A Nightmare’

Harrouff opened up to Dr. Phil from his hospital bed just two weeks after his arrest for the August 15th killings of John and Michelle Stevens.

“I’m sorry for their loss and I hope that you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and I’m so sorry, and I never wanted this to happen,” Harrouff says in the interview. “I’m so sorry. It’s like a nightmare.  I never wanted this to happen.”

Michele Mischon’s family members also released a statement following the release of the interview.  It read, in part:

Michelle Mishcon’s family will NEVER accept an apology from Austin Harrouff that does not come from a place of complete honesty.  Austin Harrouff’s apology is not authentic.  He takes no genuine accountability for destroying two families, and he offers nothing more than weak excuses and convenient selective memory. 

The video tape of that interview was released to the public on a Martin County judge’s orders.

Following the judge’s decision, King said that “although defense counsel agrees with the trial court’s ruling that nothing in the video clip provided is prejudicial to Austin Harrouff, sensationalizing the details of this case pre-trial does nothing to advance justice in the courtroom.”

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