Student's Lawyer to Argue Insanity in Death of Professor

10-17-05 - An attorney for the piano student who admitted killing a University of Texas music professor is expected to argue that he is not guilty by reason of insanity during the murder trial set to begin Monday.

Jackson Ngai's lawyer, Jim Erickson, has said his client doesn't deny killing Danielle Martin in April 2004, but Erickson said that Ngai believed Martin was a robot.

"Part of the issue is that he did not believe that this was Professor Martin anymore," Erickson said. "He thinks that he was confronted with a robot or a person that was controlled by a computer chip that was trying to kill him."

The graduate student led police to the body of the 56-year-old professor, who was found with about 200 stab wounds from a meat clever. On her body was a handwritten note that said, "Computer chip in brain."

According to homicide investigators, Ngai had helped Martin, who suffered from multiple sclerosis, with grocery shopping, cooking and other chores for several months.

Since Ngai, 24, moved to Austin to study piano at UT in 2003, he had shown symptoms of paranoia many times. According to a psychiatric evaluation, Ngai reported "delusional thoughts about somebody trying to control his mind," drug him and plant a computer chip in his brain.

If a jury decides that Ngai was legally insane during the killing, a judge could order that he be sent to a mental institution for the rest of his life. However, a judge could order his release if at any time Ngai is proved to be no longer dangerous.

If a jury decides Ngai is guilty, he faces between five years and life in prison, which could be spent in a state psychiatric unit.

Prosecutors and at least one court-appointed psychiatrist are expected to say that Ngai was sane when he killed Martin.