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Alaska judge wants murderer to taste freedom
Anchorage Daily News


May 22, 2008

ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- A state judge is forcing Alaska Psychiatric Institute to plan for the release of a patient considered potentially dangerous by psychiatrists and not ready for life outside.

Brian Dussault, the last Alaskan found not guilty of murder because of insanity, has spent most of the last 24 years at the state mental hospital.

But his lawyer says he deserves a chance at freedom.

"He's not a convict. He's a patient," said lawyer Avraham Zorea, who now lives in the Seattle area but is spending this spring and summer in Alaska working on Dussault's release.

At a hearing Tuesday before Anchorage Superior Court Judge John Suddock, Dussault, 51, sat quietly with his hands cuffed in front of him. For much of the last year, he has lived in API's forensic unit, the most secure part of the hospital.

Suddock, who has been handling the case since 2003, ordered the hospital to fashion a release plan. First, he wants Dussault moved into a less strict unit. If Dussault does well, the judge wants him out of the hospital under conditions such as testing for drugs and alcohol and monitoring by a private psychiatrist.

Dussault killed his wife during a schizophrenic breakdown in February 1984. In a bizarre, rambling interview with Anchorage police at the time, he said her body had been invaded by red crystal squares sent by beings trying to control everything. He emptied his semiautomatic into her, reloaded, emptied it again, thought maybe she was still coming round, so he sprayed her with water. Should have done that at the start, he told police. "They" don't like water.

Dussault doesn't have to prove he's sane to get out of the hospital, just that he can be adequately supervised and that the community can be protected, said assistant attorney general James Fayette.

"API is not supportive of his release," psychiatrist Larry Maile, API clinical director and head of the forensic unit, said after Tuesday's hearing.

A forensic review board at API that includes law enforcement, a public defender, a prosecutor and API treatment staff also doesn't recommend his release, Fayette said.

At times over the years, Dussault has been a difficult and defiant patient, Fayette said. During periods on API units with more liberal rules and more opportunities, Dussault didn't go to group sessions or AA meetings, the sorts of things his doctors say would show progress, Fayette said.

A private psychiatrist, Aron Wolf, told Suddock by phone Tuesday that he is willing to check that Dussault takes his medication if he's released. He could live in an assisted living facility in Mountain View that now houses mainly sex offenders recently out of prison, under the plan reluctantly fashioned by API. And he has money to pay for it all, Suddock noted.

He gets military benefits of about $2,500 a month, the judge said. Before he killed his wife, he was medically retired from the U.S. Air Force because of mental illness. He also receives about $2,400 a quarter from a family inheritance, according to a brother, who spoke by phone from New York at Tuesday's hearing.

Dussault doesn't pay a dime to live at API -- the state can't charge someone committed involuntarily for treatment, Fayette said. But he's blown money on cars and women and a house, which is now in foreclosure, the judge and others have said.

Dussault is the only Alaskan found not guilty because of insanity for murder since the notorious case of Charles Meach prompted the state Legislature to make the defense much harder to use. Using an insanity defense, Meach was found not guilty of a 1973 murder. Then, in 1982 while on a day pass out of API, Meach shot and killed four teenagers in Russian Jack Park.

Meach was found guilty of the four park murders and died in prison.

As to Dussault, the judge wants everyone to report back to him on June 19.


E-mail Lisa Demer at ldemer(at)
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