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DSA In the News

Sanity in question in family attack

Published on 9/2/2010

Doctors assessing a Redwood City mother accused of drugging and attacking her husband and children with a 10-pound dumbbell need more time to determine if she was insane at the time.

Philomena Mary Brown, 40, has already entered twin pleas of not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity to multiple counts of attempted murder. On Wednesday, a trio of court-appointed doctors were scheduled to return their conclusions on Brown’s mental state but instead asked for more time. The reports are now due Sept. 21.

Although Brown has already opted for an insanity plea, the reports can give her defense some guidance on whether to continue pursuing that avenue, said Assistant District Attorney Karen Guidotti.

Unlike competency, which is a person’s ability to aid in their own defense, sanity is a person’s mental state at the time of an alleged crime.

Brown is charged with three counts of premeditated attempted murder — alongside child abuse charges — which leaves her facing life in prison if convicted. The key is the premeditation allegation which prosecutors say is shown by her knowingly slipping drugs to her husband, 23-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son the night before the June 21 attack.

Police arrested Brown after receiving a call from the son who said he and his sister were attacked with a dumbbell at the family’s home at 1010 Vera Ave. Later details showed that Brown’s husband of 26 years and the children were allegedly drugged the previous night by something she placed in their food.

Brown fled the house and was found by sheriff’s deputies later than afternoon at Pomponio State Beach where authorities believe she tried to kill herself with prescription medication and she was hospitalized before being medically cleared and taken to the women’s jail.

Defense attorney Vince O’Malley has said his client suffered a mental breakdown in the weeks before the attack, believing people wanted to harm or even kill her family.

If Brown’s defense maintains the insanity plea, a jury will first decide if she is guilty. If so, the sanity phase will follow next.

Brown remains in custody on no-bail status.