Shaw found not guilty in stabbing case

SCHENECTADY – A Schenectady County Court jury on March 27 found the Gloversville woman accused of trying to stab a local cab driver to death last year not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.

Desere D. Shaw, 19, was accused of second-degree attempted murder, two counts of first-degree assault and a count of fourth-degree grand larceny, said Schenectady County Assistant District Attorney Mike DeMatteo.

Her attorney Michael Braccini, of Schenectady, said the verdict which was decided after more than two and a half days of deliberations, requires Shaw to remain in custody pending a hearing to determine what mental facility she will be committed to for treatment.

Braccini said the jury found it was Shaw who attacked cab driver Derek Leach on Feb. 7, 2013, leaving him with multiple wounds. However, he said, the jury found Shaw not criminally responsible because of her mental illness.

He said his client has been diagnosed with Bipolar I Disorder with psychotic affects and because of the illness she was “unable to appreciate the rightness or wrongness of her actions on that particular night.”

“The voices in her head were telling her this guy was going to hurt her and she had to protect herself and as a result she couldn’t appreciate what was really going on,” Braccini said.

Both attorney’s described Leach as a nice man who had no intention of hurting Shaw that night despite what she was thinking in her mind.

“[Leach] hasn’t really expressed much to me but we knew the ultimate issue in the case was going to be whether she met the legal standard of not being responsible because of her mental disease or defect,” DeMatteo said. “Even our psychiatrist, who evaluated her, agreed she suffered from mental illness. The question was whether she knew what she did was wrong. We argued that she did but the jury found otherwise.”

Shaw is presently at the Mid-Hudson Psychiatric Center being evaluated, Braccini said.

He said the hearing has yet to be scheduled but he expects it to happen in a few weeks.

Her attorney said once his client is determined to be OK she will be released but will be under a lifetime commitment order which means anytime in the future if she starts hearing voices or stops taking her medication she will be required to return to a psychiatric facility.

Both said the trial consisted of experts on both sides, testifying to their own conclusions over Shaw’s criminal responsibility in the case.

Braccini said Shaw’s mother had testified her daughter had been prescribed medications to control her condition, but was not on her medications at the time of the attack. Her mother had lost her insurance and Shaw stopped getting any of her medicine which consisted of six different types of medication, he said.

DeMatteo said if the jury sided with the prosecution and found her responsible for her actions, she would have faced up to 25 years in state prison.

Police said Shaw stabbed Leach, a Glove City Transportation taxi driver who had driven her to Schenectady, on Feb. 7 near the Schaffer Heights Apartments.

Schenectady police said Leach was stabbed in the area of Eastern Avenue and Nott Terrace just before 7 p.m. When officers responded, they found him bleeding at the Schenectady County Public Library.

Schenectady Police Department Lt. Mark McCracken previously said Leach was airlifted by helicopter to Albany Medical Center Hospital.

Leach’s taxi was found after the stabbing with its engine running at the corner of Windsor Terrace and Prospect Street.

Authorities said Shaw drove the cab to that location after stabbing the driver which resulted in the grand larceny charge against her.

Officials previously said Leach suffered a large laceration on his face, and other cuts on his arms and back.

Shaw was arrested Feb. 9 by the Schenectady Police Department’s Detective Division, which received assistance from the Gloversville Police Department.

Braccini said Leach was unfortunately an innocent victim because of his client’s mental illness and the verdict provides neither of the involved parties a victory.

“Nobody really wins,” Braccini said. “Mr. Leach was victimized and he’s got permanent scars both physically and emotionally and my client is going to a mental institution for a long time. There really are no winners in this case but I think it was the best outcome I could get as her attorney.”