Judge finds man incompetent to stand trial in parents’ fatal Uptown beating

Michael Singreen

An Orleans Parish judge on Tuesday deemed Michael Singreen incompetent to stand trial in the fatal beating of his parents in their Uptown home five years ago.

Criminal District Court Judge Laurie White ordered Singreen sent to a state mental hospital after an expert testified that his treatment at Orleans Parish Prison may have made his condition worse.

Singreen is now claiming that police officers are to blame for killing lawyers Harry and Shirley Singreen in January 2009, forensic psychiatrist Dr. Richard Richoux told the judge after he and another mental health expert evaluated Singreen earlier Tuesday.

That view fundamentally conflicts with Singreen’s legal defense that he’s not guilty by reason of insanity, making it impossible for the 34-year-old father of two to assist his lawyers, Richoux testified.

Singreen faces two counts of first-degree murder in the brutal beating of his 66-year-old father and 67-year-old mother inside their home in the 200 block of Audubon Boulevard.

Harry Singreen died at the scene. Shirley Singreen died five weeks later at a Metairie hospital.

“I was just tired of them,” their son allegedly told police in a confession. “I don’t give a f---. What the hell.”

White later tossed Singreen’s statement. Still to be decided, though, is whether Singreen was legally insane at the time of the killings. At a hearing last year, his attorney suggested evidence that went missing in the case may have included a journal documenting a history of sexual abuse either of Singreen or of his sister.

Singreen had a history of psychiatric treatment before the killings, having been treated over four periods in 2000 and 2001. Less than two weeks before his parents’ beatings, he had left an Illinois mental hospital, court records show.

He suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, Richoux testified. Police arrested Singreen immediately after the incident. A magistrate judge deemed him incompetent to stand trial and ordered him sent to East Louisiana State Hospital, where he was medicated.

White deemed Singreen competent to stand trial in March 2010, and he returned to the Orleans Parish jail, where he has remained awaiting trial.

After acknowledging to the doctors Tuesday that he was “roughly” aware that he’s being tried for killing his parents, Singreen revealed the “new” delusion, Richoux said.

“His defense had to do with the fact police were actually responsible for inflicting a large portion of injuries on his mother,” Richoux testified.

Singreen’s description “really did not include anything other then his acknowledgement he may have gotten into a non-lethal fight” with his parents, Richoux added. “The degree of delusion I would characterize as severe ... in terms of its practical impact on him being able to help his attorney.”

White cut off the questioning before the doctor could spell out Singreen’s full claim of police involvement.

Singreen, a De La Salle High School graduate, sat pale and quiet beside his attorney, Dwight Doskey, as the judge, lawyers and doctors discussed his mental state.

Richoux said Singreen had left the state hospital in 2010 under prescriptions for the anti-depressant Wellbutrin and the anti-psychotic Abilify, which appeared to stabilize his condition. The medical staff at the Orleans Parish jail has been giving him Seroquel, a drug that Richoux said does not address his psychosis.

“It’s not preventing him from developing new delusions. It might be making him more prone to the new delusions than if they were not giving him anything at all,” Richoux said, adding that the jail’s medical staff was likely concerned only with making Singreen manageable.

White wondered aloud whether she could order the jail to give Singreen different medications.

“Why can’t I get them to do that?” she said.

Richoux said it probably wouldn’t help, noting that cost may be a factor in which medications the jail is willing to prescribe.

“Prison personnel are not trained to observe psychiatric patients and document their symptoms,” he said in urging a move to a state hospital. “The jail I am sure does not see it as their primary purpose with Mr. Singreen in making sure he’s competent. There’s no fishing expedition to find out if it’s delusional or not. Even if it jumps out at them, they’re still not likely to treat it.”

Doskey, Singreen’s attorney, declined to comment on the judge’s decision, citing a gag order in the case.

A spokesman for Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office, which runs the jail, did not respond to questions Tuesday about Singreen.

In the meantime, both sides await a Louisiana Supreme Court ruling on whether Singreen’s sister, who is housed in a state mental health facility, is competent to take the witness stand at Singreen’s trial.

Last year, a prosecutor with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office told White that the office would not pursue the death penalty against Singreen, although that option remains.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.